What is an asbestos survey?


What is an asbestos survey and Why do I need one ?

The purpose of surveying is to make a ‘materials assessment’, ie. To find ACM and record what it is, where it is and how much there is. To record how accessible it is, its condition, and any surface treatment.

Any man-made structure, commercial building, residential building, or house constructed between the 1850 and 1999 can still pose a risk to the occupants or workers who live or reside within them. UK Regulations require you to conduct asbestos surveys on buildings constructed within this time. Asbestos surveys are required if you are occupying, buying, selling, or demolishing commercial premises. If there are tenants or people living inside the building, then asbestos surveys are also performed as a health and safety check.

The job of an asbestos surveyor is to inspect your building and identify potential asbestos-containing materials. The asbestos fibres themselves cannot always be identified directly because they are microscopic, however an asbestos surveyor is familiar with the types of building materials that might have asbestos in them, such as roofing materials, Wall panels, insulating materials and flooring materials. When selecting an asbestos surveyor you should ensure the surveyor has experience of surveying commercial premises.

Once the surveyor has located an asbestos containing material a small sample will be taken of each suspect material which will then be analysed at the laboratory for further in-depth analysis. The laboratory will identify the type or types of asbestos present with sample(s) a bulk certificate of analysis is produced detailing the laboratory results.


Within a comprehensive asbestos management plan, asbestos surveys are often the most important tool in establishing the risks present and enabling those with duties under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 to fulfil them – but to do so efficiently. Whilst the emphasis is always on safety, it’s also important to remember that without evidence a building doesn’t contain asbestos, it must be presumed to do so, which is likely to mean non-asbestos materials are being managed as if they are. This leads to unnecessary effort and costs.

Below, you will find a step by step guide outlining the standard practice of an asbestos survey, and what is involved.

What is the purpose of an asbestos survey?

First and foremost, the survey is conducted to help with the initial stages of managing the asbestos in your premises.

It also provides information on:

  • the location, amount and condition of asbestos-containing materials
  • the level of damage or deterioration in the asbestos-containing materials
  • whether remedial action is required

This information gathered as a result of the survey can be used to record the asbestos containing materials and create an asbestos register showcasing areas of the building where asbestos has been found to be present.

What type of survey do I need?

The first step to completing a successful asbestos survey is to understand which survey is needed. The Health and Safety Executive “strongly recommends the use of accredited or certificated surveyors for asbestos surveys.” At Alexander Arnold Ltd Edinburgh, we offer the full range accredited asbestos surveys that cover all eventualities.

We offer three types of surveys:

  • Management surveys – Surveys of this type are normally the first step in establishing whether your premises contain asbestos and establishing a management plan if they do. They will not include damage to the building fabric (other than to remove samples) but will take into account routine maintenance wherever possible. Sometimes, if planned refurbishment works are due, it’s possible to include specific intrusive inspection points to the affected areas.
  • Pre-demolition surveys – This survey is required when demolition work is scheduled at a property. Unlike management surveys, this needs to be a fully intrusive inspection, to check the building fabric for the presence of asbestos.
  • Pre-refurbishment surveys – This survey is used when refurbishment work is planned for a property, like pre-demolition surveys this is an intrusive inspection, however, the scope of the work will depend upon the nature of

What happens during the asbestos survey?

At the beginning of a survey, although most pertinent information should already be in-hand for large sites, there will be an initial walk-through. This is required to, among other things, identify anything that may obstruct the project, to check the validity of plans and risk assess the site. During the survey, surveyors  will work methodically through the premises and use their skill and judgement to identify suspect asbestos materials. They will collect a sample for lab analysis to definitively verify the asbestos content.

If necessary, a water absorption test will be completed as a part of this analysis, this is used to ascertain the density of a material and whether it is a cement-based product or a less dense insulating board type material. During surveys, the work areas should be free from anyone but the survey team and for refurbishment or demolitions surveys, the premises should be vacant unless tight controls are in place. Air testing can also feature in an asbestos survey, depending on the investigation’s initial findings.

This may be in the form of background testing prior to commencing work, reassurance testing after the discovery of asbestos in poor condition, or personal monitoring to our staff.

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