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Competence is key: Ensure asbestos surveyors are qualified for the job

Asbestos surveys are only effective if competent surveyors are employed to do them...That is one of the key messages being promoted at roadshows to help explain new guidance devised for those responsible for managing the risks from asbestos.

'Asbestos: The survey guide' (Ref: HSG264) which was published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in January is aimed at those who commission asbestos surveys, the surveyors who carry them out and those who use them such as architects and demolition or removal contractors.

A number of successful road shows, attended by surveyors and health and safety professionals have already taken place with further events scheduled for Cardiff (19 May), Birmingham (16 June) and London (30 June).

The new guide stipulates that clients and duty holders only engage a surveying organisation that is competent. This can be demonstrated either through the organisation being accredited and/or individual surveyors having their own certification.

The guide strongly recommends the use of UKAS accredited or ABICS certified surveyors for asbestos surveys

Said Dr Martin Gibson, author of the guide and a Principal Specialist Inspector for HSE:

"Ensuring that contractors are competent to do asbestos surveys should be a top priority for those responsible for managing the risks from asbestos.

"Those organisations or individuals without accreditation and/or certification will find it more difficult to demonstrate that they are competent, so by employing a contractor with accreditation and/or certification, dutyholders can better meet their legal requirements."

Added Martin Stear, Chair of the ABICS certification scheme:

"ABICS certification is a new scheme which certifies individuals, and has been introduced to expand the options for demonstrating competency. Clients engaging certificated surveyors can be assured that surveys will be undertaken by competent people".

Said Rob Bettinson of UKAS:

"UKAS accreditation for surveying companies is a well established scheme. Accredited organisations can demonstrate that not only do they have competent surveyors but they are also working within a well defined management system that provides confidence in the surveying procedures that are used. Clients can have confidence that accredited surveyors will provide a quality service."

"Asbestos, the survey guide" (HSG264) can be purchased from HSE books (ISBN 9780717663859) for £10.95 or downloaded for free at http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/hsg264.htm

Notes to editors

  1. The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 specifies that anyone who carries out an asbestos survey should be competent. The Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) which supports the Regulations explains that competency can be demonstrated through accreditation or certification. Accreditation and personnel certification are both valid schemes for demonstrating competence in performing asbestos surveys. The schemes are designed for different market segments and have different emphasis. Both will ensure that surveys are carried out by competent people. Accreditation is suitable for organisations of all sizes and not only individual competence but also the need for more formal and well-defined quality management systems. Personnel certification is designed for individuals who may operate as sole traders or in organisations with only a few surveyors. The scheme focuses on individual competence.
  2. Organisations can demonstrate that they are competent to undertake asbestos surveys through accreditation to ISO/IEC 17020 by a recognised accreditation body. The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) is the National accreditation body appointed by Government in the United Kingdom (www.ukas.com).
  3. Individuals can demonstrate that they have adequate levels of competence through having personnel certification for asbestos surveys from a certification body which has been accredited by UKAS to ISO/IEC 17024. Accredited personnel certification provides assurance that an individual has obtained a defined level of competence to carry out specific activities. Currently there is one scheme accredited by UKAS: ABICS (the Asbestos Building Inspectors Certification Scheme) set up by the Faculty of Occupational Hygiene, part of the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), and is run by a Management Committee independently of all other operations of BOHS (see http://www.abics.org).

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Updated 2011-12-07