RICS Draft Guidance Note: Asbestos - legal requirements and best practice for property professionals and clients (4th edition)

RICS Asbestos 4th edition consultation draft

4.2.8 Procuring asbestos surveys and asbestos works

Clients should be aware of the steps to take to identify competent asbestos surveyors and contractors.

Clients are not expected to be experts in asbestos or asbestos-related work, and do not need to directly manage or supervise the work themselves. However, under the CDM Regulations they are responsible for ensuring appropriate arrangements are in place to manage and organise these projects. This means they must appoint people who have suitable skills, knowledge and experience, and provide them with sufficient information, time and resources to do the job properly.

Clients need to satisfy themselves that the companies they engage are appropriately resourced, have effective management systems and are competent to do the work. They need to be certain that the companies they engage will demonstrate high standards of workmanship and health and safety management, as well as maintaining appropriate levels of insurance and financial stability.

Because clients are at the head of the procurement chain and have the final say on how projects are run, they have many opportunities to set standards for project delivery, including health and safety management. Therefore, the law requires that clients:

  1. make suitable arrangements for managing a project and
  2. maintain and review these arrangements throughout the project to ensure health and safety risks are managed appropriately.

Under the CDM Regulations, the client has a duty to provide pre-construction information for any construction work. To ensure a survey is as comprehensive as possible, and therefore reliable, the client should also provide suitable information and support to the appointed asbestos surveyor. This should include:

  • historic asbestos information
  • as-built construction and service drawings
  • access to all areas
  • the opportunity to open up areas and
  • attendance by other trades.

Successful projects require good coordination and cooperation between all parties. Poor decisions and actions, as well as indecision and inaction, can have an adverse effect on how the work is delivered, causing contractors to fail to meet industry and legal standards, and potentially leaving clients with substantial criminal and civil liabilities, lengthy delays and disruption to projects.

In order to avoid this, a client should use a robust supplier approval process to select a shortlist of specialists. Then, using a clear, precise and accurate scope of work (or brief), each specialist can provide a quotation and technical proposal for the work on the exact same basis. The client can then use their judgement as to who is best suited to carry out the work. Price should not always be the final consideration, as this can often lead to poor-quality work being carried out.

Asking questions around the following topics will go some way to assessing the suitability of the specialist company:

  • financial stability and insurance cover - including bank reference
  • resources and personnel to do the work
  • health and safety capability
  • membership of trade associations
  • licenses to operate/accreditations
  • examples of similar work
  • references and testimonials from recent projects and
  • appropriate quality management systems.

It will be up to the client to justify the reasoning behind the selection of a non-UKAS-accredited organisation should a prosecution occur as a result of an inadequate survey.

Further information on commissioning asbestos surveys can be found in appendix C.