RICS Draft Guidance Note: Asbestos - legal requirements and best practice for property professionals and clients (4th edition)

RICS Asbestos 4th edition consultation draft

Appendix C: Guidance on how to commission an asbestos survey

The HSE has produced guidance on asbestos surveys and although this guidance is primarily aimed at those undertaking surveys, it does contain some useful information for clients. In this appendix, we have also included a checklist that can be used by dutyholders to help them comply with regulations and guidance.

Asbestos surveyors vary in their levels of diligence and competence. As a minimum, anyone undertaking an asbestos survey commercially should hold either the RSPH or BOHS qualification. These qualifications alone do not demonstrate competence, so they should be backed up with evidence of appropriate experience, insurance and most importantly a quality control scheme. It is the responsibility of the dutyholder to check these elements. This can be time-consuming and may require professional assistance.

Alternatively, the dutyholder can demonstrate that they have met the requirement to ensure competency by employing an organisation accredited by UKAS under ISO 17020 to undertake asbestos surveys.

In most circumstances, accreditation to ISO 17020 alone will be sufficient to demonstrate competence; however, if the premises are unusual the dutyholder might want to ask the surveying organisation about its experience in surveying these types of properties. The skillset needed to survey a small office will be different from that needed to survey an oil refinery or a listed building.

Two different types of asbestos surveys exist and it is important to ensure you select the most appropriate survey for your needs.

Management survey

This is a survey of a property that has been designed to ensure it is possible to manage the asbestos within the property adequately. In order to perform an asbestos management survey, the asbestos surveyor will need to understand how the property is managed and which areas are regularly accessed. The expectation should be that the asbestos surveyor will access all of these locations when performing the survey. As an example, if there are high-level ceiling voids containing cabling that needs maintenance, the selected asbestos surveyor should inspect these locations.

These surveys are semi-invasive, in that the asbestos surveyor will look everywhere that is accessible, but they are not destructive. So, for example, they will not remove plasterboard or timber boxing or open up brickwork. A management survey looks at surface materials only.

Refurbishment and demolition survey

Property professionals should understand the difference between refurbishment and demolition, and the implications of the distinction between the two. It is important when commissioning an asbestos survey to ensure it is fit for purpose.

The term 'refurbishment' covers a wide range of activities, from the redecoration of a room through removal of walls and ceilings to complete strip-out back to shell. An asbestos survey needs to be undertaken that is appropriate to the level of refurbishment being performed. It is therefore important that the dutyholder details the scope of their works for the surveying organisation, to ensure an appropriate survey is undertaken. This should minimise the use of caveats and restrictions that appear in the final report.

Demolishing a property will require a survey to ensure all asbestos on site is identified prior to works commencing. This type of survey is destructive and is ideally only conducted once properties are vacated. When demolishing a property, it is likely the dutyholder will be appointing professionals such as architects and engineers to assist. If this is the case, seek input from these professionals in designing the survey. If conducted correctly the survey report should contain no caveats or restrictions unless these have been previously agreed.

Asbestos survey reports may already exist, or may have just been received. It is important to note that this does not represent the end of the dutyholder's responsibilities. The next step they should undertake is a review of the report, with a view to identifying whether any immediate actions are necessary. With this in mind, it would assist the dutyholder if the asbestos surveyor provided an action plan. This may be buried in the report, so it may be easier to ask for this separately.

Survey factors to consider

The following can be used as an aide memoire by RICS members and RICS regulated firms to validate completed asbestos survey reports.

In particular, the following should be checked:

  • The original instructions for the survey and report have been followed.
  • The survey type (management, refurbishment or demolition) is correct.
  • A survey of selected areas only (as opposed to the entire property) has the relevant areas listed.
  • There is an executive summary detailing urgent actions.
  • There is a certificate of analysis for samples that have been taken.
  • There is a register detailing every asbestos item, whether it is an ACM identified by sample analysis, a visual cross-reference or a presumption.
  • The drawings make reference to each ACM listed on the register.
  • There is a photograph of each ACM listed on the register.
  • Titles, reference numbers and descriptions are correct.
  • There is a list of areas not accessed.
  • The caveats and exclusions are as agreed during survey planning.