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February 19, 2015

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Asbestos management: intrusion, sampling & re-instatement

By Paul Phillips

244234_7882Both Management and Refurbishment & Demolition (R&D) asbestos surveys require the surveyor to take samples and therefore involve intrusive works. While the surveyor will be trained and instructed to take care, where possible, not to damage the property unduly, inevitably materials in the property’s interior will need to be disturbed i.e. samples of floor tiles removed, panels punctured or detached etc. to gain access to voids and cavities and take samples for analysis.

The surveyor will not disturb or sample every aspect of an occupied property. The HSE document, HSG 264 provides guidance on taking representative samples. Section 104 states:

“for homogenous material, often a single sample may be all that is required to confirm the suspicion that it is asbestos and to make a presumption that it applies to other material of the same type”

Paragraph 101 states

“Samples of about 3–5 cm2 surface area and through the entire depth of the ACM (including any backing paper) should normally be taken with the aim of collecting one or more samples which are representative of the whole material”

Surveyors are required to wear full RPE/PPE when conducting sampling (type 5/6 coveralls and FFP3 protection). The surveyor should also be segregated from any occupants or other persons in the immediate vicinity. Typically this will involve decanting the room and closing the door but if the sampling needs to take place in an occupied area the surveyor will protect the working area in 1000 gauge polythene. In both cases warning signs should be displayed. Fibre-suppressing techniques will be used (usually a PVA and water based mixture through an airless sprayer)

A reassurance air test carried out by a UKAS-accredited analytical consultant may also be necessary to determine the safety of reoccupying areas where particularly friable materials such as pipe lagging have been sampled.

The surveyor cannot compromise the integrity of the survey by choosing peripheral or inconspicuous parts of a material to sample or disturb in order to maintain the aesthetics for the tenant. Access to some asbestos containing materials (ACMs) may be obscured such as toilet cistern obstructing riser access, insulation board located behind access panels or floor tiles that are situated below several layers of modern flooring.

For safety and aesthetic purposes the damage caused by sampling needs to be re-instated. The degree of re-instatement required will depend upon whether the area is to be re-occupied before the works commence.

For a recent survey project in Barts Hospital in London we defined four specific levels of reinstatement:

  1. BASIC – polythene and cloth tape
  2. MEDIUM – Painted MDF board with tapered edges secured with security tape, adhesive and silicone
  3. HIGH –Wipeable plastic sheets secured with security tape, adhesive, antibacterial silicone
  4. FULL – complete reinstatement i.e. replacement if panel/tile, tape/joint, re-decoration in-keeping

While temporary repair may be all that is required if the area is going to be refurbished, this type of reinstatement often falls well short of tenants’ expectations and satisfaction and is a major source of complaint at the outset of social housing refurbishment that can lead to lingering resentment and loss of reputation for all involved.

So what can be done to placate the tenants, reduce complaints and ultimately streamline the entire refurb project?

Well the key word here is expectations. In our experience, if the tenant is expecting some minor damage and that they are informed that this is an inevitable consequence of the refurbishment process they are far less likely to complain.

We therefore strongly advise that the tenants are, at the very least, informed about what the survey will entail during the appointment phase. This could be as simple as including a warning statement in the appointment maker’s script and/or the confirmation letter or you could enclose a simple FAQs flyer with in the letter.

Finally, all Global Environmental’s surveyors are now furnished with endoscopes which helps to reduce the size of cavities we need to make to access voids to see if ACMs are present in concealed areas. Reducing the cavities we need to create from 50mm to about 10-15mm helps can provide safety and aesthetic benefits in minimising the potential for fibre release and the extent of any damage respectively.

Paul Phillips is operations manager at asbestos consultancy Global Environmental

This is the second of a series of blogs which discuss the latest issues in asbestos management. The first article can be found here. Next week Paul will explain how survey exclusions should be interpreted and managed.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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