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Understanding Asbestos Surveys: Protecting Lives and Kent Properties

Asbestos, a once-celebrated ‘miracle mineral,’ hides a deadly secret. It was widely employed in Kent buildings, cherished for its fire-resistant qualities and strength. However, today, it poses a significant threat to public health. In this article, we delve into the importance of asbestos surveying in Kent, what asbestos is, why it’s perilous, and who can carry out these crucial surveys.

What is Asbestos? 

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was utilised extensively in construction, including homes, commercial buildings, and machinery. The UK primarily employed three types: crocidolite (blue), amosite (brown), and chrysotile (white). While all asbestos types are hazardous, blue, and brown asbestos are considered more dangerous due to their sharp and brittle fibres.

Although asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999, buildings constructed before 2000 likely contain it. The danger arises when asbestos is damaged or disturbed, releasing airborne fibres that, when inhaled, can lead to severe lung diseases like asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, and pleural thickening. Asbestos is a silent killer, often leading to complacency as its harm isn’t immediately apparent.

Identifying Asbestos: The Role of Asbestos Surveys 

Asbestos surveyors play a vital role in safeguarding lives and properties. They are necessary in non-domestic premises when work may disturb or damage asbestos or if accidental fibre release occurs.

Types of Asbestos Surveys 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recognises two primary types of asbestos surveys:

  1. Asbestos Management Survey: This survey identifies ACMs (Asbestos-Containing Materials) within a building and assesses whether they could be disturbed during regular use. It ensures the safety of occupants by confirming the ACMs are in good condition and unlikely to be accidentally damaged.
  2. Asbestos Refurbishment/Demolition Survey: Conducted before significant renovation or demolition, this survey is more intrusive and destructive. It focuses on identifying ACMs that will be disturbed during the project, ensuring contractors can work safely.

Both surveys may be necessary in some cases, depending on the building’s intended use.

Who Conducts Asbestos Surveys? 

Competent individuals must conduct asbestos surveys. Competency entails understanding asbestos risks, having adequate training and experience, and using effective quality management systems. Although accreditation isn’t mandatory, the HSE strongly recommends using accredited surveyors (standard BS EN ISO/IEC 17020) to ensure quality.

The Survey Report After a survey, the duty holder receives a comprehensive report. This report should include essential information:

  • Surveyor’s name and survey date
  • Executive summary of the survey
  • Scope of the survey (management or refurbishment/demolition)
  • Survey methodology and limitations
  • Locations of ACMs, often with photographs and plans
  • Sample results and analysis details
  • Findings, conclusions, and recommendations
  • Any required actions

Additionally, some reports may contain an asbestos register, risk assessment, and management plan. Clear, accessible, and understandable reporting is crucial for managing asbestos effectively.

Neglecting the Risks

Neglecting asbestos risks can lead to severe consequences for duty holders. Inadequate surveys can result in asbestos disturbance, contamination, legal action, compensation claims, and substantial costs. Duty holders are legally obliged to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises, making suitable asbestos surveys, registers, and management plans essential for responsible property management. Remember, a completed survey is not the endpoint; ongoing assessment and monitoring are crucial in safeguarding lives and properties.

By prioritising asbestos surveys and following proper procedures, we can prevent a hidden killer from claiming more lives and ensure the safety of future generations.

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