Q: I’m thinking of converting the loft of a very old rental property and recently got some quotes. The conversion company told me I’d need to get an asbestos survey first though – how should I choose an asbestos surveyor and what kind of qualifications should they have?
A: There are around 4,000 asbestos-related deaths every year in the UK. Although you won’t notice the immediate effects of asbestos exposure, later on in life it can cause diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelimoma – which can be fatal. Many people don’t even realise that they’re living with asbestos; any property built before the year 2000 could contain asbestos in materials like loft insulation, guttering, floor tiles and water tanks.
So yes, you will need to get your loft checked out by a qualified asbestos surveyor; especially since the property in question is very old. It’s important to make sure you hire a qualified asbestos contractor to do the survey – here’s an outline of what to look out for:
Asbestos surveyor qualifications
A qualified asbestos contractor will always be happy to prove that they have the right asbestos training and can adhere to asbestos regulations. Hire someone who:
- Is qualified to at least BOHS P402 standard
- Has full and valid insurance
- Is HSE licensed if removing asbestos materials
- Has a Hazardous Waste Carriers Licence if they are going to be transporting asbestos waste
- Preferably has at least three years experience if they’re a sole contractor
- Sends all asbestos samples to UKAS accredited laboratory for analysis
Always be wary of asbestos contractors charging very low prices – they may not have the right qualifications, licences and insurance and are bound to cut corners when it comes to health and safety. Always get at least three quotes and remember; sometimes the cheapest one isn’t the best or safest option.
What can happen if you don’t hire a qualified asbestos surveyor?
Recently, an engineer from a well-know gas company fitted a new boiler for a customer. Unbelievably, the engineer failed to ask if an asbestos survey had been carried out first and instead proceeded to rip away old pipes and lagging in the loft which were riddled with all three types of asbestos. The engineer left asbestos debris all over the loft and tracked it throughout the house; covering himself and his van with dangerous asbestos fibres in the process.
The end result of this mistake was extraordinary – the engineer had to be medically examined and his van scrapped as contaminated waste. The house had to be completely stripped back to bare brick and decontaminated; household goods like TVs, carpets, beds and sofas had to be thrown into landfill and while all this was happening the family were moved out to a hotel.
The whole thing took the gas company two months to sort out and cost them £80,000 – on top of that they’ll have to pay an undisclosed amount of compensation to the customer. All this could have been avoided if an asbestos survey, which only costs around £250, had been carried out first. A qualified asbestos professional could have then safely removed the asbestos for around £3,000!