New Guidance for Asbestos Surveys

Dale Potts
The Health & Safety Executive has reviewed its guidance on asbestos surveying. The new guidelines place greater emphasis on the responsibilities of the duty holder, and on the competency of the asbestos surveyor. Find out about the new survey types.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has reviewed its guidance on asbestos surveying. The current 'MDHS 100' document will be replaced in early 2010 with ‘Managing Asbestos in Premises, the Survey Guide' which will describe management surveys and refurbishment/demolition surveys.

The HSE estimates that there are between 0.5 million and 1 million non-domestic properties which still contain asbestos. They predict an increasing requirement for the more invasive refurbishment/demolition survey.

What does the new guidance mean?

The revised duty to manage asbestos brings new amendments and guidelines. These are principally aimed at the survey and the management of asbestos. The aim is to improve the overall management of asbestos throughout all stages of a building's life. This should reduce serious and fatal incidents, and ill health due to asbestos mismanagement.

  • asbestos management must now be applied to every building regardless of size, type or age (constructed prior to 2000)
  • there are new survey types
  • the new guidance aims to improve the quality of asbestos survey reporting
  • greater emphasis on competency of the asbestos surveyor
  • greater emphasis on the responsibilities of the client/duty holder

Duty holder's responsibility: The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2006 (CAWR) specifies the 'Duty to Manage' as a legal requirement.

The new guidance places express obligations on the duty holder in relation to the planning and execution of the asbestos survey. It clarifies the duty holder's responsibility to assess the competency of the asbestos surveyor. It is also the duty holder's responsibility to ensure that the reporting is of a suitable standard.

To date, the industry has referred to Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3 surveys, which define detailed an investigation is to be carried out. These will now be replaced by new survey types:

Management survey: Similar to the former Type 2 but will involve a more intrusive investigation. The new regulation amendment will compel clients and duty holders to do more in terms of control measures to protect employees and workers. It will be undertaken to address the risk associated with the continued use of a building (i.e. normal occupancy and activities, and associated maintenance and development).

Refurbishment and demolition surveys: Carried out as per the former Type 3, and will now come into play for minor refurbishments as well. The intention is not to just presume asbestos is present, but to complete a comprehensive assessment via a detailed survey. This will be much more intrusive and destructive, with the intention of finding asbestos that has to be removed or can be managed.

Survey restrictions and caveats: These can seriously undermine the management of asbestos in buildings. They should be included only where absolutely necessary and should be fully justified. Most can be avoided by proper planning and discussion. They must be agreed between the duty holder and the surveyor and documented in the survey report.