For the second part of our Asbestos Awareness Week, Marketing Executive, Emma Prendergast, has been out on site with Operations Manager, James Pool, to experience an asbestos survey first hand.
Emma Prendergast, Marketing Executive, REC Ltd
“A grovelling 7am start, we met for a pre-site briefing at REC headquarters in Manchester. James was waiting for me with the least flattering of get ups; a p3 filtered half face mask, steel-capped boots, hard hat, type 5-6 coveralls and safety glasses. Anyone carrying out or participating in an asbestos survey has to adhere to asbestos health and safety standards – and I was no exception. Airborne asbestos imposes a health risk to anyone who inhales or ingests it, so the uniform was mandatory, despite the truly, frightening reflection in the mirror.
Both weighed down in kit, James drove us to an old industrial site in Manchester, which up until recently, had been used as a production plant. With the site closure, however, the plant is now being decommissioned and knocked down, and the space created used for a new residential development by a major property developer.
Any site built before the year 2000 can potentially contain asbestos and will most likely need an asbestos survey before any works are carried out. This particular site dates back to the 1920s, so James is here to carry out a demolition survey to determine whether there are any asbestos containing materials (ACMs), prior to demolition taking place. This is a fully intrusive survey and uses destructive techniques (knocking through walls, taking up carpet etc) to access all parts of the building’s construction.
Due to the size of the site, the entirety of the survey will take just over a month – but James was able to provide me with an insightful snapshot into the nitty gritty of what an asbestos survey entails. Laden with ladders, tools and a suspicious looking axe, (our surveying staff are trained in working at heights and using a variety of tools), James didn’t hold back; from being up in the ceiling, slicing through walls and tearing out carpet, no stone was left unturned. James explained why this was the case, “Asbestos was first used for construction in the UK in the late 1800s and can be hidden anywhere; from ceilings, pipe lagging, insulation, roofing, walls – to even the backs of tiles – so it’s essential that an asbestos surveyor is as thorough as possible, ensuring that all asbestos is detected and can be disposed of correctly”.
Anything we unearthed as suspected asbestos was sampled, double bagged and labelled, and then taken to one of REC’s laboratories to be analysed by a bulk analyst. It’s only when James has completed the survey in full, however, that the identified ACMs can be removed by an asbestos removal contractor, prior to demolition of the building.
After 4 hours of what felt like a full day’s session at the gym, James and I then cleaned all of the tools and removed and double bagged our overalls, sending them to the lab to be disposed of as hazardous waste. We then then drove to the lab to drop the samples off before I was finally released back into the office.
Now, with thanks to James, I have come away with the highest respect for asbestos surveyors and analysts, not least for the full work out that being on site provides. I have a more thorough understanding of what asbestos surveys involve and the comprehensive approach that asbestos teams go through to ensure our safety on and off site.”