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Written by
on 03 May 2009


Asbestos is a deadly dust and kills quickly the following explains the new methods of surveying for asbestos.

Type of Asbestos Survey: The Management Survey

This is the standard asbestos survey that should be carried out for the continued management of asbestos in premises. The purpose of the survey is to locate, as far as reasonably practicable, the presence and extent of any suspect ACMs in the building and assess their condition. The survey will primarily involve sampling and analysis to confirm the presence or absence of ACMs. This is the most common approach that has been used for surveys.

However a management asbestos survey can also involve presuming the presence or absence of asbestos. A Asbestos management survey can be completed using a combination of sampling ACMs and presuming ACMs or, indeed, just presuming. Any materials presumed to contain asbestos must also be assessed (ie material assessment).

Management surveys can involve a combination of sampling to confirm asbestos is present or presuming asbestos to be present. Any area not accessed should be presumed to contain asbestos.
By presuming the presence of asbestos, the need for sampling and analysis can be deferred until a later time (eg prior to any work being carried out). However this approach has implications for the management arrangements. The duty holder bears potential additional costs of management for some non-ACMs.
Any work carried out on “presumed” materials would need to involve appropriate contractors and work methods in compliance with CAR 2006 irrespective if the material was actually an ACM or not. Alternatively, prior to any work starting, sampling and analysis can be undertaken to confirm or refute the presence of asbestos.

The results will determine the work methods and contractors to be used. The “presumption” approach has the disadvantages that it is less rigorous, it can lead to constant delays before work can start and that it is more difficult to control (Ref HSG227). It may be suitable in some instances eg “small” or simple premises.

When sampling is carried out as part of a management survey, samples from each type of suspect ACM should be collected and analysed. If the material sampled is found to contain asbestos, other similar materials used in the same way in the building can be strongly presumed to contain asbestos. Less homogeneous materials (eg different surfaces/coating, evidence of repair etc) will require a greater number of samples.

The sample number should be sufficient for the surveyor to make an assessment of whether asbestos is or is not present. Sampling may take place simultaneously with the survey, or as in the case of some larger surveys, can be carried out later as a separate exercise.

All areas should be accessed and inspected as far as in reasonably practicable. This includes under carpets, above false ceilings, and inside risers, service ducts, lift shafts etc. It may also involve some minor intrusive work such as accessing behind fascia and panels, other surfaces or superficial material. The extent of intrusion will depend on the degree of disturbance that is or will be necessary for foreseeable maintenance activities. This should include installation of new equipment/cabling.

Asbestos Surveyors should come prepared to access such areas (ie with the correct kit/equipment etc). Any areas not accessed must be presumed to contain asbestos. The areas not accessed and presumed to contain asbestos must be clearly stated in the survey report and will have to be managed on this basis ie maintenance or other disturbance work should not be carried out in these areas until further checks are made.

Type of Asbestos Survey: The Refurbishment and Demolition Survey

This type of asbestos survey is used to locate and describe, as far as reasonably practicable, all ACMs in the area where the refurbishment work will take place or in the whole building if demolition is planned. The survey will involve destructive inspection, as necessary, to gain access to all locations, including those that may be difficult to reach.

Refurbishment work may vary from relatively small scale to large projects. Small scale work may occur in different parts of a building at different times over several years. A full sampling programme is undertaken to identify possible ACMs and estimates of the volume and surface area of ACMs made. The survey is primarily designed to identify ACMs so that they can be removed in preparation for refurbishment or demolition.

There is a specific requirement in CAR 2006 (Regulation 7) for all ACMs to be removed as far as reasonably practicable prior to major refurbishment or final demolition.

Removal of ACMs would also be appropriate in other refurbishment situations eg “more minor” which involve structural or layout changes to buildings (eg removal of partitions, walls). Where the “construction” work attracts the requirements of the CDM Regulations 2007 (eg major refurbishment or demolition), the survey information can be used to assist in the tendering process for the removal of ACMs from the building prior to the work starting.

The asbestos survey report should be supplied by the client to designers and contractors who may be bidding for the work so that the asbestos risks can be addressed. In this type of survey where the asbestos is identified in order for it to be removed (rather than to “manage” it), the survey does not assess the condition of the asbestos, other than to note areas of damage or where additional asbestos debris may be expected to be present.

Refurbishment and demolition surveys are intended to locate all the asbestos within a building as far as reasonably practicable. It is therefore a disruptive and intrusive survey which may need to penetrate all parts of the building structure. By its definition, aggressive inspection techniques will be needed to lift carpets and tiles, break through walls, ceilings, cladding and partitions.

Controls should be in place to prevent the spread of debris which may include asbestos. Because of the nature of the investigations to be carried out, refurbishment and demolition surveys should only be conducted in unoccupied areas to minimise any risks to members of the public or employees on the premises. Ideally the building should not be in service and all furniture and furnishings removed.

For minor refurbishment this would only apply to the room involved or even part of the room where the work is small and the room large. In these situations, there should be effective isolation of the survey area (eg full floor to ceiling partition), and furniture and furnishings should be removed as far as possible or protected using sheeting. The “surveyed” area must be shown to be fit for reoccupation before personnel reoccupy. This will require a thorough visual inspection and, if appropriate (eg where there has been significant destruction), reassurance air sampling with disturbance. Under no circumstances should staff remain in rooms or areas of buildings when intrusive sampling is performed.

There may be some circumstances where the building(s) is still “occupied” at the time a “demolition” survey is carried out. For example a demolition survey maybe conducted in order to establish the economic future or viability of a building(s). The survey results would determine the outcome.
In such situations, the “survey” will need extremely careful managing with personnel and equipment/furnishings being decanted and protected while the survey progresses through the building. Again there should be effective isolation of the survey areas and the “surveyed” area must be shown to be fit for reoccupation before personnel reoccupy.

Don’t you owe it to your family, friends and colleagues to know more? then contact Veritas Consulting (Health and Safety Consultants) on 0121 249 1281. or send an Email


A chartered (fellow) safety and risk management practitioner with 20+ years of experience. David provides a healthy dose of how-to articles, advice and guidance to make compliance easier for construction professionals, Architects and the built environment. Get social with David on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

A chartered (fellow) safety and risk management practitioner with 20+ years of experience. David provides a healthy dose of how-to articles, advice and guidance to make compliance easier for construction professionals, Architects and the built environment. Get social with David on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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