Asbestos management

The asbestos management journey – step by step

Neil Munro Asbestos Awareness

The prospect of managing asbestos can be daunting – particularly for those who have never done it before. As experts in our field we want to talk you through the asbestos management journey to help you understand what is involved, where you start and how you get to the end result of full compliance…

Step One – Go Back to Basics

Firstly, you need to start with a desktop study.

You need to identify what you are responsible for. As the duty holder for non-domestic premises you need to evaluate all the buildings and locations you hold which may contain asbestos. If you have a building built prior to 2000, you need to think about asbestos.

Think about your sites. Do you have:

  • Older sites?
  • Lots of buildings on one site – what are their ages?
  • Old buildings with newer extensions?

Pull together a list of all the areas and which could contain asbestos and this will formulate what you need to inspect.

Step Two – What do the plans tell you?

Once you have your list of buildings and areas to inspect, examine your property plans. If you have got full plans of all areas this will assist you in identifying all locations which need inspecting. The plans will also assist any contractors you employ to carry out work.

Step Three – Construction

Identify the type of buildings you have and what type of construction they are.

Step Four – Have you got any previous information?

Do you have any previous asbestos surveys or information? You may be able to use that information to progress with your asbestos management or you may review the previous reports and identify whether they are out of date.

Old reports and construction information can identify whether asbestos was used. If there have been any new constructions or extensions on your site in the past 10 years, you should have full built notes.

Put all this information together so you have a full history and knowledge of all the different types of buildings.

Step Five – Do you need a survey?

Once you have evaluated your information you should have a list of sites and buildings for which you need asbestos information. At this point you should be able to identify whether you have the asbestos information you need, have inadequate asbestos information or no information at all.

The next step is to get an Asbestos Management Survey. It is a non-intrusive survey carried out by experts such as the team at Acorn Analytical Services. We would look where a maintenance person would go, such as ceiling voids, risers, all surface areas and lift the carpet, if possible, to inspect underneath. It is a sampling survey, so we would collect samples and you get a list of asbestos or non-asbestos items that have been identified in the building.

The management survey will give you the information about any suspect materials and will include a material risk assessment which looks at how easily, or how readily, materials will release their asbestos fibres, to help you formulate what needs to be done.

Generally speaking, when the management survey is completed the findings are recorded within the asbestos survey report that your survey produces. Within that is the material risk assessment, other key documents which record any access areas and your asbestos register. The asbestos register is the document for a site or location and includes any information that needs to be provided to anyone working within that building. It is a live document and needs to be kept up to date.

When you look at asbestos reports, most people have a quick look to see what asbestos they have. What they forget is any areas that were not accessed during the survey. These areas should be agreed by the surveying company and client up front so the client knows if there are certain areas which the surveyors cannot get too. For example, any concrete or risers which can’t be accessed or electrical equipment which cannot be accessed such as fuse boxes. This information needs to be recorded on the survey report.

Asbestos Management Surveys must be done by a competent surveyor and the HSE strongly recommend using a UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) organisation. If you choose not to use a UKAS accredited organisation the onus falls on to you, as the person employing them, to evaluate whether they are competent. You would need to look at their quality management systems, training, qualifications, insurances and experience to do these types of works.

Step Six – Using the data

Once you have the asbestos information, you need to collate this together. If you have multiple sites, this is where it can become a bit more complicated.

You need to assess the overall risk, we call this an assessment risk which is ultimately a priority risk assessment. The asbestos survey will give you information about the asbestos product but this particular assessment looks at what is the risk of someone in your building coming into contact with asbestos.

These sort of risk assessments look at occupancy, type of activity within the area, how many people are in that area. It will also look at maintenance activity and basically put those two assessments together so you can evaluate what you need to do with that asbestos.

The material risk assessment just looks at the risk of the material releasing the asbestos fibre. The overall risk is of it being disturbed and the risk of fibre release.

For example, you may have pipe insulation that has amosite brown asbestos in a badly damaged condition so it could readily release fibres. However, if it is in a room that isn’t used and locked, it could come down the risk order. From this you can start to form an action plan of what needs to be done and when.

The asbestos regulations do not say you have to get rid of all asbestos because that is virtually impossible until the building is demolished. It is not a duty to survey or remove. However, it is the duty to manage asbestos.

Once you have put these assessments together, you will know where each location is. Each assessment should be done by the duty holder and this is important. You are the one who knows the buildings and are responsible for how they work. You can ask your asbestos surveyor or consultant to assist you. At Acorn Analytical Services, it is very common for us to undertake these types of assessments on behalf of our clients but they have to be reviewed and signed off by the duty holder to say it is a true representation of the site and its workings.

Step Seven – Your Asbestos Management Plan

An asbestos management plan is the written legal document you are required to have.

When you have identified your asbestos and assessed the risk of the likelihood of people being exposed to it you should be in a position to plan what you need to do with your asbestos containing material. You need to address what you need to do to prevent people being exposed to asbestos.

You need to consider how do you stop people doing works on your property and damaging asbestos and then being exposed to asbestos. You must make sure they evaluate the asbestos register – if their works are intrusive then either you, or the contractor, may need to instruct another survey. Having all these policies and procedures in place is designed to help to prevent that.

Finally, remember – if the layout of the building has been changed, or if you have had asbestos removed as part of remedial works, the plans and specification need to be updated.

We’re a professional asbestos consultancy helping businesses deal with asbestos compliance using asbestos surveysasbestos testing, and asbestos removal. Please call one of the team, or use the online form to obtain your free quotation. If you would like further information or advice on asbestos and asbestos training, contact the team on 0844 818 0895 or email