The new survey guidance has been around for six or seven months now and I would like to ask where is it taking us?
We are all aware of the changes:
New Survey types, Management, Demolition/Refurbishment replacing the Types 1,2 and 3. The clarification of the survey types will assist the clients in ensuring the appropriate survey is carried out.
Quality and Competence:
Client has a responsibility to ensure the competence of the surveyor, recommended minimum of training and experience of surveyors.
Report production and presentation:
To ensure reports are produced and presented so that duty holders can utilise the information effectively.
Pre Survey Planning:
Planning prior to survey to enable appropriate survey and production of relevant information.
Survey reports should form part of an asbestos management plan and are not the management plan in itself.
In the main the changes are good for both client and surveyor. There is a requirement to produce useful factual reports by competent and experienced surveyors. The client has a duty to employ and instruct suitably qualified individuals or companies. Will this lead to the duty holders considering that the cheapest surveying quote is not always the best? Will the client focus on who exactly is to carry out the survey rather than how much it will cost? If there was an increased level of awareness among clients of their duties and responsibilities I would say that this is possible. The sad fact is that despite the best efforts of the HSE and other like minded bodies there is still a huge gulf in asbestos awareness. It seems that only those companies that regularly engage in asbestos management; (property surveyors and management companies for example) are aware of the duties and responsibilities. Considering the high profile nature of asbestos, there is still a lot of news coverage, and a massive amount of information on the internet, it is surprising to find that duty holders or interested parties are unaware they have a responsibility to manage their asbestos risk.
In future the hope is that this changes and the duty holder is more asbestos aware.
I would like to spotlight an issue that may have arisen as a result of the way demolition/refurbishment surveys are carried out. This issue, I feel, has an impact across a huge sector of the construction market. Namely the market in home improvements. This sector ranges from new kitchens, double glazing, conservatories, central heating and electrical installation. I am as yet unaware of any large home improvement company that carries out asbestos surveys prior to the commencement of works in a domestic property. Is this because CAR 2006 specifically excludes domestic properties? Recent figures suggest that up to 2.4 million homes contain asbestos products in the UK. There are a large number of tradesmen involved in the installation of home improvements who may be exposed to asbestos during the course of their everyday work. Thanks to the clarification of survey types in HSG264, it is clear that a part survey of a limited area can easily be carried out. The ideal application of such localised area surveys would be a pre refurbishment survey in a domestic setting. This would address the problem of potential exposure during localised works such as kitchen and bathroom refits. For many years PA Group has been carrying out full and part property surveys in domestic properties for social landlords to locate asbestos prior to such refurbishment programmes. It is clear that this approach urgently needs to be rolled out to privately owned domestic properties.
This brings us back to CAR2006, Reg 4 states the domestic properties are excluded. This could explain why home improvements companies do not feel there is a duty to carry out an asbestos survey. I feel that when read with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, an employer has a duty to ensure that its employee’s place of work is a safe environment. This being so, it surely follows that the risks associated with a domestic should be identified as much as they would for a commercial property? If I live in a 1930’s semi and I want a new kitchen with a new boiler, possibly and new circuit breaker why wouldn’t I or the kitchen fitter, have an asbestos survey carried out? There may be a number of asbestos containing materials present including, textured coating on the ceiling, asbestos board in the boiler cupboard, asbestos paper behind the partition? Now that HSG264 points out that any part of a building that is to be refurbished has to have a fully intrusive survey done, why shouldn’t I have one in my home, to mitigate risk to myself and the contactor? Am I the duty holder or is the company I have employed to do the work, who have a duty to their employees under H&S 1974 but are excluded from CAR2006? My guess is that, as usual, the contractor may have to take the responsibility.