Complacency – an asbestos surveyor’s biggest enemy

Commercial Photography from Pete Barnes

Complacency is the asbestos surveyor’s enemy number one.

There is lots of training available to make sure surveyors are qualified and they will build up experience before they are let loose on their own because asbestos is such a hazardous substance.

You tend to find surveyors aren’t complacent when they first qualify because the work is still new and they’re still not 100% comfortable with it.

The danger can come when they’ve been doing the job for a little while. It’s like driving a car, you get used to doing things and can go on auto pilot. This is when complacency may start to creep in.

Never presume

If a surveyor becomes complacent you may find that when, for example, they’re surveying a large office block once they’ve surveyed 80% of it and the same issues keep coming up they may presume there’s nothing else to look for. If they’ve not found anything in the ceilings up until that point they stop checking them and then lo and behold in the last 20% there is something but they miss it.

I surveyed a high-rise hospital built in the 1970s which had had its top floor fully refurbished in the 2000s. Floor after floor nothing was coming up and when we got to the last floor there was a locked room to which no one had a key. It would have been so tempting to have walked away but we didn’t. We persevered and found a key to the room and I’m so glad we did because in the ceiling of that last room we found Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB) risers. They were nowhere else in the building and if we’d been complacent we’d have missed them.

A surveyor should also never presume what a material contains. It is easy to see something and think that you’ve sent materials like that to the laboratory for testing countless times and it’s always come back negative so you don’t need to sample it this time. Let’s be clear about this – the only way surveyors can categorically tell that something is asbestos or not is by having it analysed in the laboratory.

Keeping complacency at bay

One of the best ways to avoid complacency is by following the surveying procedures correctly. Ceilings, walls and floors should be checked methodically.

Surveyors should remember how dangerous asbestos can be and hold on to that fear. They should walk away knowing they’ve been everywhere in that building and there is nothing they don’t know about it now. If they’re not concerned that people might come into contact with asbestos and are not prepared to do everything possible to make sure that doesn’t happen they shouldn’t become an asbestos surveyor.

They should never rush a survey just to get home. Rushing is the second biggest danger after complacency. If they’re not committed to doing the job properly they should leave the industry because if they don’t their attitude is going to end up costing them, their employer and potentially some very unfortunate people a lot – may be even their lives.

You can trust Acorn with your survey

At Acorn we hold monthly meetings where we review our work and share knowledge. It reminds everyone what they should be doing and prevents us from becoming complacent.

Spot audits also help keep people on their toes. You need someone who is super experienced and also a stickler. Spot audits are there to make staff better and our product even better which is good news for us, our clients and the end users.

Re-inspections are another way of checking and resurveying areas to make sure that they are correct. The feedback from re-inspections is important to us and our clients because they prevent us from making mistakes and stop complacency setting in.

When people come on board with us, we train them and we also always get our team to check one another’s work. Two pairs of eyes are better than one because people look at things in different ways.

We’re a professional asbestos consultancy helping businesses deal with asbestos compliance using asbestos surveysasbestos air testing, and asbestos removal management. 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 Contact Us

Neil Munro

I work in a dual role at Acorn Analytical Services focused primarily on growing and leading the business from our Northampton office base. My focus is on overseeing all sales, marketing and financial activities from Northampton. I assist clients with high-level asbestos management strategies and training. Together with Ian Stone I host our weekly podcast – Asbestos Knowledge Empire and I'm Co-author of Asbestos The Dark Arts and Fear and Loathing of Health and Safety.

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