Asbestos Surveys – Some basic facts

FACT – some forms of asbestos were not completely banned in the UK until 1999 and many asbestos containing materials were still manufactured up to the mid 1990’s, as such an asbestos survey is a legal requirement for all non domestic properties built before the year 2000.

From the early 1900’s it is estimated that over 6 million tonnes of asbestos were imported into the U.K. This asbestos was used in over 3000 documented building materials. Only an asbestos survey, carried out by a trained asbestos surveyor can identify the location of asbestos containing materials through an asbestos inspection and asbestos sample analysis in a UKAS accredited laboratory.

The main reason for this is that asbestos was used in sometimes quite small quantities, from just a few percent (but up to 100%) as part of the ingredients of other non asbestos containing materials such as; asbestos containing floor tiles and adhesives, asbestos containing linos, asbestos containing paper, asbestos containing textured coatings (commonly known as Artex), asbestos containing putty, asbestos containing sealants, asbestos containing floor bath panels, asbestos containing partition walls, asbestos containing doors, asbestos containing soffits and fascia panels, asbestos containing water tanks, asbestos containing insulation to pipes and heaters, asbestos containing roof tiles, asbestos containing cement roofs, asbestos containing packers around beams in floors, ceilings and walls, and as such the visual appearance of any building material may seem quite innocent but potentially hides a killer mineral – asbestos.

An asbestos survey is a legal requirement prior to any employed person working in a domestic or commercial property in the UK. The asbestos survey does not need to be conducted to the whole property if only a small section is due for alteration. For example, you can carry out and asbestos inspection of just the kitchen or bathroom, if those are the only rooms which are going to be worked in. The basic requirement is that if the fabric of the building is to be disturbed then this disturbance should be preceded by an inspection for asbestos containing materials.

Quoting published HSE statistics in 2010 there is approximately between 0.5 million and 2 million commercial buildings still with asbestos containing materials. Llewellyn of BRE suggested that 75% of commercial building contain some asbestos. This includes, corner shops, pubs, offices, factories, industrial buildings, basic work units, high street shops, hotels, in fact it can be present in any place of work, anywhere.

There are approximately 2.4 million domestic properties (this includes houses, flats and bungalows) with asbestos containing materials.

Increasingly insurance companies and solicitors are requesting that an asbestos survey is carried out prior to the completion of sale on properties built prior to the year 2000.

This year it is expected that 5000 people (nearly 14 people per day) will die of an asbestos related disease. By approximately 2020 this will have risen to 12000 people per year (nearly 33 people per day).
The highest risk groups of people are those working in the building and allied trades.

Using Transmission Electron Microscopy it has been shown that in the region of 60% of plumbers tested had been exposed to asbestos though company documents only showed that 20% had been working with asbestos containing materials.

An asbestos survey, (be this a refurbishment asbestos survey, Predemolition asbestos survey which have superseded the type 3 asbestos survey or management asbestos survey – which has superseded the type 2 asbestos survey) carried out correctly can prevent these exposures, however the asbestos inspection has to be in place prior to works commencing. This is why the HSE have made it a legal mandatory requirement that persons in control of building premises and those in the building and allied trades, including, builders, plumbers, electricians, surveyors, architects, carpenters, shop fitters and demolition operatives have annual asbestos awareness training.