RICS Draft Guidance Note: Asbestos - legal requirements and best practice for property professionals and clients (4th edition)

RICS Asbestos 4th edition consultation draft

4.2.9 UKAS accreditations and the selection of competent consultants

This section explains the difference between the UKAS accreditation for asbestos inspections and ISO 9001 registration.

Anyone who engages an external company to carry out any specialist work has a duty to take steps to ensure they have contracted a suitably competent organisation to do that work. This could mean going through a third-party verification system or using their own in-house supplier approval procedure, as well as relying on the various 'license to operate' schemes that are in place for some of the higher-risk activities, such as the Gas Safe Register for gas engineers.

In some cases, these licences are legal requirements; you cannot do that particular activity if you do not hold that licence. In other cases they are voluntary, which usually leads to the more responsible companies in that sector wanting to hold licenses as a way of differentiating the quality of their work from others.

In the asbestos consulting sector, these are known as accreditation and a company can be accredited to carry out an activity such as surveys, air testing or laboratory analysis. This accreditation is granted by UKAS (the UK Accreditation Service) and is made when a company can demonstrate it conforms to the relevant ISO standard. The different types of UKAS accreditation are:

    • asbestos surveys and reinspections - to ISO 17020: not legally required but strongly advised
    • asbestos air testing, including four-stage clearance certificate of reoccupation - to ISO 17025: legally required, and
    • asbestos laboratory sample analysis - to ISO 17025: legally required.
 asbestos-symbol1

Companies that are accredited by UKAS for air testing and sample analysis will display this symbol:

 asbestos-symbol2

Companies that are accredited by UKAS for surveys will display this symbol:

Regulation 20 of The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 requires employers who engage a laboratory to undertake air sampling and analysis of air samples to ensure the laboratory conforms to ISO 17025.

Regulation 21 of The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 requires employers who engage a laboratory to analyse ACMs to ensure the laboratory also conforms to ISO 17025.

UKAS-accredited companies work to a strict system of internal quality assurance procedures and are subject to rigorous external auditing to ensure the quality of their work is maintained at the very highest standard. These companies are required to adhere to strict authorisation procedures by ensuring their staff are qualified to a minimum level, and they maintain training and audit records on these staff. Additionally, a prescribed programme of quality assurance checks are put in place, from planning the project through to undertaking the work on site and then issuing the final report.

It is possible to obtain registration to another standard, ISO 9001. This registration, or certification, is very different to the stricter accreditation and is merely a management standard to show the company has general organisational and management procedures in place. ISO 9001 does not look at asbestos-related technical activities specifically, and does not demonstrate any sort of measure of the quality of work the company carries out.

Anyone who engages a UKAS-accredited company does so in the knowledge they are using a company that carries out a certain level of quality assurance audits and checks themselves, which are then verified by an external organisation.

Readers outside the UK can find out whether their operating country has an equivalent to UKAS here.

If you do not engage a UKAS-accredited company to carry out a survey, you should confirm that:

      • the asbestos surveyors have passed either the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) P402 or Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) Level 3 Asbestos Surveying qualification
      • the company has a track record in carrying out a range of different survey types in different types of property
      • the asbestos surveyors have sufficient knowledge of surveying your type of building
      • the company is certified to a quality management system such as ISO 9001
      • the company has sufficient knowledge to assess any health and safety risks
      • the asbestos surveyors are audited as part of their work
      • the company's insurance cover and policy excesses, in particular professional indemnity and public liability, include cover for asbestos-related work, and
      • they are prepared to provide at least three references from other clients.

Failure to ensure that this has been done could render you liable in the event of an HSE investigation.