Asbestos Surveying Part 1: A Beginner’s Guide to Surveying

Asbestos is dangerous. Asbestos kills. Not the most pleasant of introductions to an article you’ll ever read; but then asbestos is not really an overly cheerful topic.
For those of you who are new to asbestos, you may benefit from first reading Asbestos Explained in 60 seconds.
Before we start, ACMs is the abbreviation used for Asbestos-Containing Materials within the industry. Let’s begin...

What is an asbestos survey?

An asbestos survey is a survey undertaken of a building, property or structure, with the purpose of identifying asbestos containing materials (ACMs).

What does an asbestos survey involve?

In its simplest form, it involves a competent and qualified asbestos surveyor visually inspecting the building, property or structure, and sampling any suspect materials, which are believed to contain or possibly contain asbestos. These samples are then analysed by a United Kingdom Accredited Service (UKAS) laboratory to confirm whether or not the samples taken were in fact asbestos, and if so, what type of asbestos they were.

Why have an asbestos survey?

The key benefits of an asbestos survey:
  • helps you manage asbestos in your premises.
  • provides you with accurate information on the location, amount and condition of ACMs.
  • enables you to assess the level of damage or deterioration in the ACMs and whether remedial action is required.
  • allows you to use the survey information to prepare a record of the locations of any asbestos, commonly called an asbestos register, and an asbestos plan of the building(s).
  • helps you with the identification of the ACMs to be removed before refurbishment work or demolition.

What type of surveys are there?

There are 2 types of surveys:
  1. Management survey,
  2. Refurbishment and demolition survey (also known as R&D survey or RDS).

What is a management survey?

A management survey will be required during the normal occupation and use of the building, property or structure, to ensure the continued management of the ACMs in that area. It is a standard survey, and its purpose is to locate, as far as is reasonably practicable, the presence and extent of any suspect ACMs, which could be damaged or disturbed during the normal occupancy.

Management surveys often involve minor intrusive works and some disturbance. The extent of intrusion will vary between premises and depend on what is reasonably practicable for each building.

What is a refurbishment or demolition survey?

A refurbishment or demolition survey will be necessary when a building, or part of it, is to be upgraded, refurbished or demolished. It MUST be carried out before any refurbishment or demolition works commence. This type of survey is undertaken to locate and describe, as far as reasonably practicable, all ACMs in the areas where refurbishment works are scheduled or throughout whole building if demolition is planned.
This type of survey is fully intrusive and involves destructive inspections, as necessary, to gain access to all areas needed. There is also a legal requirement for all ACMs identified in this survey to be removed, as far as reasonably practicable, before major refurbishment or final demolition.

Who should carry out the surveys?

In principle, a survey can be carried out by anyone competent to do so. However, in practice, it would ALWAYS be strongly advisable to use a UKAS accredited asbestos surveying company. This way you should hopefully ensure the survey you need is undertaken properly.The surveyors of these companies should:

  • have sufficient training, qualifications, knowledge, experience and ability to carry out the duties in relation to the survey and to recognise their limitations,
  • have sufficient knowledge of the specific tasks to be undertaken and the risks which the work will involve,
  • be able to demonstrate independence, impartiality and integrity,
  • operate to an adequate quality management system, and
  • carry out the survey in accordance to the recommended guidance and standard.
UKAS accreditation should immediately give you peace of mind that the surveying company has been rigorously audited and accredited by the strict governing body in the United Kingdom.

Asbestos is dangerous and you need to manage it appropriately. Step one is finding the asbestos and that’s achieved through surveys.

If you believe your commercial or private property may have asbestos, you have a responsibility to manage it. ESSS, a UKAS and ISO accredited asbestos consultancy, is equipped to determine the extent of your asbestos situation and develop a plan for the management and/or removal of it. Contact us today at 01268 755 464 or by visiting

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