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Archive for Asbestos Survey

Planning the Asbestos Survey

At the onset the goals of the asbestos survey should be outlined. The primary gaol of the survey is to develop an asbestos register and prepare an asbestos management plan. These tools can then be used to determine management actions to control the health risk of asbestos exposure. At this stage the data required from the survey and information required to conduct the survey should be outlined. A detailed list of information that may be required is provided in the document UK HSE Asbestos: The Survey Guide. Consideration of all the available information is required to develop the survey plan. Long term management options should be discussed and the decision making stages of the survey determined.

A risk assessment of the survey should be conducted at this stage, it is likely that the risk assessment will require review following the initial site inspection.

Competent Person for Asbestos Survey

The Qld WHS Regulations 2011 ‘require a person with management or control of a workplace to ensure asbestos or ACM at the workplace is identified by a competent person’. Skilled and qualified persons may be available within the organisation or consultants may be contracted for the work. The person responsible for managing the project should ensure that the requirements of the Qld How to Manage and Control Asbestos in the Workplace Code of Practice 2011 are met for a competent person. References from previous projects and qualifications, licences and relevant experience should be checked.

Due to the sensitive nature and potential concerns for workers and customers it is important to ensure that the person conducting the survey has a good understanding of the health risk and other commercial risks and that clear paths of communication are maintained between all stakeholders.

Initial Asbestos Survey

There may be information available detailing the location of ACM within the premises. The first step is to collect and review all available information.  This involves a review of available information on materials within the premises that may contain asbestos. If the location of asbestos is known it is important to know the condition of the material and whether any work had been conducted on ACM which may have damaged or disturbed the material.

A review of building designs and maintenance works including any modifications provides an insight to where ACM could be located and work that had been undertaken on the premises. As records often don’t accurately reflect the building design and conditions including any modifications a physical inspection of the premises is usually required.

At this stage it is appropriated to conduct an initial inspection to ascertain the presence of materials that could contain asbestos. Factors which should be considered at the stage include, date the building was constructed, any modification that have been done, materials used in construction, information from designers / manufactures or plant, information from facilities management personnel and identification of difficult or inaccessible areas.

If the review shows that there are no materials that could contain asbestos, such as the building is constructed of brick and steel, no further investigation may be necessary. The initial inspection would also allow the scope of further detailed inspections which may include sampling to be determined.

An advantage of conducting an initial inspection is the organisation the opportunity to immediately implement restrictions on work that may result in an unacceptable exposure to airborne asbestos fibres. Another advantage is that management could develop a clear understanding of the potential situations and plan and communicate in a manner that would not create unnecessary concern to employees or clients.

At the initial inspection management decisions on the control of asbestos can be made by presuming materials contain asbestos and taking actions to control the potential for disturbance of the materials. Due to the sensitive nature of asbestos, actions such as restricting work approvals or access to certain areas may be appropriate at this stage. Management actions at this stage are short term measures while further information is collected.

Identification Asbestos Survey

Based on the information collected in the initial assessment a more comprehensive assessment may be required. Consideration would be given to accessibility of areas including the risk of access and whether it is more feasible to assume the presence of asbestos. If another area is easily accessible and is confirmed ACM it may be more practical to assume all areas of similar materials are ACM. It is not acceptable to assume a material does not contain asbestos without comprehensive information such as bulk sampling.

Prior to taking bulk samples a risk assessment must be completed for the task, including; access risk such as working at height, electrical and confined space entry and asbestos exposure risk for taking the sample, transport of the sample and repair of any damaged material during sampling.

When determining whether to sample a number of issues must be considered. The Qld WHS Regulations 2011 required that asbestos material be identified as far as reasonably practical, however the Qld How to Manage and Control Asbestos in the Workplace Code of Practice 2011 provides guidance that ‘if asbestos is stable and non-friable and will not be disturbed, it should be left alone’.  There may be significant implications for management for asbestos, these implications should be considered when determining whether the risk of obtaining a sample outweighs the benefits of identification through sampling.

Specific requirements for analysis of samples are detailed in Qld How to Manage and Control Asbestos in the Workplace Code of Practice 2011. Analysis can only be conducted by a NATA-accredited laboratory or one that is approved by or operated by the relevant regulator.

Asbestos Risk Assessment

As previously stated the health risk of asbestos is from inhalation of fibres. An asbestos survey should assess the condition of asbestos materials and their ability to release fibres. Numerous risk assessment protocols are available such as those recommended in the Model WHS Regulations and AS/NZS ISO 31000:2009, Risk Management – Principles and guidelines. These risk management protocols are developed to assess the task. For asbestos in buildings it is useful to assess the ability to release fibres of the material. The UK Health Safety Executive: Asbestos – The survey guide HSE 2010 provides guidance on how to conduct a material risk assessment using algorithms. This tool allows for assessment of the potential for fibre release which can be used when determining management plans for specific areas.

The risk assessment protocol should be determined in consultation with the relevant stakeholders use of the UK HSE algorithms is recommended as a practical option.

A material assessment is conducted taking into account the following factors:

  • Product type;
  • Extent of damage or deterioration;
  • Surface treatment; and
  • Asbestos type.

The material assessment can be extended to a priority assessment to assist in developing the asbestos management plan by considering the following factors:

  • Location of the material;
  • Extent of the material;
  • Use to which the location is put;
  • Occupancy of the area;
  • Activities carried on in the area; and
  • Likelihood/frequency with which maintenance activities are likely to take place.


For detailed advice on assessment and specific control measures for your workplace contact our consultants.

For further information on asbestos click here.

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