Mike Sopp advises on how to use the results of your premises’ asbestos survey effectively to implement a robust management system.

The need to manage risks associated with asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) is a well-known legal requirement.

A key factor in the management process is the identification of ACMs, typically through a survey regime.

To successfully manage the materials in question, the person responsible (the duty holder) must ensure that the outcomes of the survey regime are effectively used to implement a robust management system.

Survey purpose and planning

Under regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, the duty holder is obliged to “identify the location and condition of asbestos in non-domestic premises and to manage the risk to prevent harm to anyone who works on the building or to building occupants”.

The regulations do not specifically state that a survey should be undertaken but it is widely recognised that surveys by a competent person are a common way of fulfilling this requirement.

HSG264 Asbestos: the Survey Guide notes that a survey will help manage asbestos in the duty holder’s premises and has to provide “sufficient information for an asbestos register and plan to be prepared, a suitable risk assessment to be carried out and a written plan to manage the risks to be produced”.

As well as ensuring, through due diligence, the competency of the asbestos surveyors, the duty holder should be fully involved in the planning of the survey process. HSG264 suggests that the client (duty holder) will need to:

• understand the purpose of the survey

• consider the type of survey to be completed (management of refurbishment)

• determine what information the survey should provide

• consider the format of the survey report

• identify the information that the surveyor will require to complete the survey.

One of the key issues as to the usefulness of the survey are restrictions such as scope of survey and methods used by the surveyor.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance clearly states that the “value and usefulness of the survey can be seriously undermined where either the client or the surveyor imposes restrictions” and that information on the location of all ACMs “is crucial to the risk assessment and development of the management plan” and will “make managing asbestos more complex, expensive and potentially less effective”.

As such, the duty holder should ensure access to all areas and that the necessary means of access are agreed with the surveyor prior to the survey being undertaken.

Assessments and registers

The duty holder should receive from the surveyor a comprehensive survey report and should take reasonable steps to ensure the survey report is meeting tender or contractual obligations.

The key outcome from the survey process is an asbestos register. The asbestos register is a less detailed document than the full survey report and can best be described as “a living document which must always contain current information on the presence and condition of asbestos”.

It should be determined as part of the tender/contract whether or not the surveyor or the client is responsible for developing the asbestos register. Where it is the latter, it is important that the information from the survey report is presented in a manner that makes development of the asbestos register easy to achieve.

As noted above, the completion of a suitable risk assessment is a key outcome from the survey process. This consists of a material assessment and priority assessment to give an informed decision on what action may be required to manage ACMs.

Guidance makes it clear that the material assessment should be completed as part of a management survey as it is an assessment of the condition of the various ACMs and their ability to release fibres.

However, the same guidance also notes that the priority assessment is the responsibility of the duty holder “using their detailed knowledge of the activities carried out in the premises”.

Some of the information necessary to complete this assessment can be sought from the surveyor but, where necessary, the duty holder may have to seek additional support to complete this assessment if they feel they do not have the necessary competency to complete it.

Some caution must be taken as to the information contained in the survey report/asbestos register in terms of ongoing management of asbestos containing materials.

For example, if the survey consisted of a management survey only, this may be sufficient to cover any routine and simple maintenance work, but where more extensive work is required, the HSE clearly state that “there may not be sufficient information in the management survey and a localised refurbishment survey will be needed”.

Similarly, there is a presumption default which applies to areas that cannot be accessed or inspected. In this situation “any area not accessed or inspected must be presumed to contain asbestos, unless there is strong evidence that it does not”. Areas that cannot be accessed include not just structural areas but also plant and equipment.

Appointed person and management plan

HSE guidance clearly states that the surveyor should “inform the client that the survey is not the end point in managing asbestos”.

To take the outcomes of the survey forward there needs to be clear lines of responsibility. The HSE recommends that duty holders identify a person within their organisation to be responsible for the management of asbestos.

The HSE states that this “appointed person will be essential where the duty holder has a large or complex building portfolio” and “will need the resources, skills, training and authority to ensure that the ACMs are managed effectively”.

The appointed person will need to determine, based upon the outcomes of the risk assessments, what action to take in relation to the ACMs present. In summary, this will be based upon removal, repair, protection and/or monitoring of the ACMs, along with management actions such as training, the control of contractors as well as in-house maintenance work that may disturb materials left in-situ.

For materials to be removed/repaired, the duty holder will need to determine how this can be best achieved, eg if the work is deemed to be licensable work. They will then need to prioritise the work where there are numerous ACMs to be addressed.

For materials to be left in place (including those repaired or encapsulated), the duty holder will need to determine how best to achieve the effective management of these materials. This will include the following.

• Monitoring to ensure the ACMs have not deteriorated. Decisions on who will undertake this and how often must be considered along with their competency.

• Information on ACMs. Who do we need to inform of the presence of ACMs and how do we achieve this (eg labelling, induction training, etc)?

• Training of in-house employees. Who may disturb ACMs as part of their work activities and what training is required?

• Contractors. How do we manage and control contractor work to ensure ACMs are managed appropriately?

• Register access. How do we ensure that both in-house employees and contractors have access, where necessary to the register?

• Legislation. How do we ensure the appropriate regulatory requirements are being met when working/managing ACMs?

To ensure these matters are managed, the HSE recommends the development of an asbestos management plan, that will detail all of the above and include copies of the register, survey, monitoring schedule, etc.

Conclusion

• Duty holders are required to take reasonable steps to identify and assess ACMs (or make a presumption that such materials are on the premises).

• The completion of an asbestos survey by a competent surveyor will help inform the duty holder of the location and condition of ACMs.

• As well as ensuring the competency of the surveyor, duty holders should collaborate with them in developing the contract brief.

• Once completed, the duty holder should review the survey report to ensure contractual obligations have been met in accordance with guidance in HSE document HSG264.

• The duty holder is required to undertake a priority assessment of the ACMs identified in the management survey so as to inform them of what action should be taken to manage the ACMs.

• Any restrictions or caveats from the survey should be noted and, where necessary, additional surveys completed (management and refurbishment).

• A survey report is a full report generated from the survey. An asbestos register can be developed from this report either by the duty holder or the surveyor (if contracted to do so).

• The asbestos register is a “living document” and should be regularly reviewed and updated by the duty holder.

• In complex or multiple site organisations, it is recommended that the duty holder appoints a named person to be responsible for managing the survey outcomes.

• An Asbestos Management Plan should be completed and kept under regular review with contents of the plan as detailed in HSE publications L143 and HSG227.

Further information

See your Croner-i topics on:

These publications are available from the Health and Safety Executive at: www.hse.gov.uk

• L143 Managing and Working with Asbestos

• HSG264 Asbestos the Survey Guide

• HSG227 A Comprehensive Guide to Managing Asbestos in Premises.

Last reviewed 8 April 2019