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Comparing apples with apples?

One of the major issues faced by those trying to procure asbestos surveys is the variety of options available, and, often, confusion over what type of survey to obtain.  The latter issue is one of education which can be answered by having received formal Asbestos Awareness Training.

We are often faced with a situation where a new client has approached us because they have a report which has been rejected by their lender, or because it is confusing and contradictory from the perspective of their contractor. 

This leads to a position where the basis upon which the survey has been procured should be examined, and that is often not an easy subject.  Aside from knowing which asbestos consultancy type to approach, there is also the question of what differences exist across the asbestos surveying/services sector. 

For example, if you were looking to procure an Asbestos Management Survey for a small shop, it might be that several organisations could easily handle that work and you should be able to procure competitive prices.  That said, if the purpose of the survey was to provide the report to a SIPP provider, you may find that they reject the report unless the survey has been provided by a UKAS Accredited Asbestos Surveying company.

If you were procuring asbestos surveying services for a large industrial scale premises, you would clearly need to consider many additional issues, for example;

  • How long has the consultancy traded?
  • Does the consultancy have UKAS Accreditation?
  • Is the consultancy Independent of any asbestos removal company?  Is it owned by an asbestos removal company?  Is there a clear conflict because of this?
  • Can the consultancy provide evidence or case studies to show competency in relation to this type of work?
  • Can the consultancy provide clear evidence of capability in the event of a ‘worst-case scenario’?
  • Is the survey team attending your site the right survey team for that work?
  • Has the consultancy attended the site to provide an overview prior to providing their proposals to survey it?
  • Has the consultancy included bulk sample collection and analysis costs or are they providing merely a surveying cost with an additional charge for samples?
  • Is the consultancy limiting their samples such that you will be confused about the extent of the intrusive investigations?

The asbestos market is predominantly owned by shareholder-led PLC’s and also by asbestos removal companies with, one could argue, a vested interest in removing asbestos (where it could be ‘suggested’ that removal was a sensible option).  This could mean that your initial costs become significantly different.

There is a huge variation on offer when one is looking to procure an asbestos survey. This variation comprises companies with no formal accreditation (such as UKAS), and standard valuation/condition surveying companies who often don’t specialise in asbestos surveys, but may sub-contract that work to another party, usually at the lowest possible rate.

There are also asbestos removal/demolition companies with asbestos surveying ‘add-on’ businesses, and finally, there are actual asbestos surveying companies with UKAS Accreditation, highly qualified specialist teams, and significant industry and technical knowledge.

Considering all of these factors, and aside from the potential to receive a report which may not be accurate, it may also be that the report makes suggestions based merely on the proviso that ‘asbestos needs to be removed’. In most cases, this is not the case.

In addition, many Asbestos Management Surveys contain caveats such as ‘No Access’ to voids and attic spaces, mainly because the price they quoted is for a single surveyor and no access equipment. This means that your procurement method is flawed and the report might prove meaningless; the voids are where asbestos is likely to be contained.  This equates to a position where you could conceivably have several quotations for the same asbestos survey, none of which provide you with what you need. 

Clearly, one would have to ensure the comparison on price was matched with a comparison on the scope and extent of the survey, for example;

  1. Are two surveyors attending?
  2. Are they planning to access the voids, and how?
  3. At what time of the day are they attending & does this change the likely access issues?
  4. Are they restricting sample volumes?
  5. Is it a quotation based on firm information or is it an estimate with the ability to change value?
  6. Is the cheapest quote actually doing what is needed?
  7. Is the company Insured for asbestos surveying?
  8. Is the company merely an agency using part-time/unemployed ‘samplers’?
  9. Can you view a redacted report to see what you will be receiving?
  10. Can the company provide reliable Case Studies?

Whilst this may seem like a lot to ask, it is worth remembering that we are dealing with asbestos; a huge health and financial risk, and one which could cause serious trading difficulties if not procured properly.

The primary function of an asbestos Management Survey is to allow the dutyholder to Manage any asbestos found to be present.  In many respects, the instigator of the asbestos Management Survey is often a chartered surveyor, Lender, SIPP provider, Health & Safety Officer, vendor, or someone with an interest in general property acquisitions or transactions.

The problems which can arise by virtue of not using the services of an independent, qualified, UKAS Accredited professional include;

  • Survey errors, simply due to lack of experience;
  • Single surveyor sent which falsely reduces costs & restricts access;
  • Suggesting asbestos needs to be removed when it may not;
  • Insufficient knowledge of the locations where asbestos could be contained.

Of course, the issues go beyond merely purchasing something which transpires to have been inadequate.

Investing in a property which contains asbestos could result in long-term negative equity, aligned with refurbishment difficulties when one attempts to make alterations to the structure, or simple functional alterations like cabling or lighting installations.

As a general rule, the vast majority of asbestos found to be present does not need to be removed.  Worse still, of course, is the potential for asbestos (in any condition) to have been missed during an asbestos survey, mainly due to lack of experience, poor procurement, and/or economic constraints on the part of the surveying company if they have not quoted it correctly.

Clearly, there is a lot to consider when choosing an asbestos surveying practice. We recommend using this simple method;

Experienced

No connection to Asbestos Removal companies

Solid credentials

Attentive & reactive

Forthcoming & helpful

Engaged as part of your team; a true partner

At Ensafe Consultants we are impartial, qualified, confidential, independent, and highly experienced.  We provide our clients with asbestos advice, asbestos surveys, asbestos analytical services, training, soil analysis, and expert witness services across the UK and beyond.

Please contact us in complete confidence for an overview of your asbestos needs. We can promise you an individual & unbiased service.

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