The Asbestos industry is highly regulated with legislation and guidance documents on how the various activities should be conducted. However, time pressures are an ever-increasing issue in a world that demands everything to be quicker and cheaper, but at what cost.
We will first look at a few examples of where legislation and guidance dictate when something can be done and how much can be completed in a timeframe.
Certain types of asbestos removal works are subject to a 14-day notification period, that means that the licensed asbestos removal contractor needs to submit documentation to the appropriate authority (HSE or Local Authority) 14 days prior to the works commencing on site. That could have a serious impact on your programme of works if this has not been considered. The removal works need to have been agreed and planned at this point so you can’t just stick in the notification and then work out what needs doing in the interim.
Analysis of samples, whether asbestos in bulk samples or fibre concentrations in air samples, both have limits on the number of samples that can be analysed in a given time period and guidance advising on the amount of time to be taken to carry out the analysis or visual inspection.
Now let’s look at where the time pressures can occur.
Planning & Implementation Stage
Often caused by a lack of planning at the design stage, ‘We are starting our refurbishment works next week so can you be on site tomorrow to carry out the survey’. This puts pressure on the project team to put a plan of works together and to capture and collate all key information. The scope might not be detailed enough to cover the works leading to potential risk of exposure for the follow-on trades. ‘your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on my part’.
Being allowed enough time on site to complete the works, whether this be removal, surveying or analytical. Often following on from pressures experienced at the planning stage, not understanding the size and complexity of the job and underestimating the time it would take to complete. Some contractors will say ‘it takes as long as it takes but the job needs to be done right’, but others will say ‘we’ve priced for a day, you’ve got a day, get it done’. Alternatively, the client placing time restrictions, either the window of opportunity to carry out the works, or a deadline when works need to be completed by. When it comes to quoted prices it’s often a case of reduce the cost, reduce the time allowed.
This one relates to surveying projects and having a realistic timescale to produce the final survey report. Consider the life cycle of the survey after the site work has been completed.
- Any samples need to be returned to a laboratory for analysis.
- Those samples need to be analysed and a certificate produced.
- Site plans need to be produced highlighting key information including location of any ACM’s.
- The findings need to be reviewed by the surveyor.
- The survey findings and scope of works need to be quality checked prior to issuing to the client.
The above could also be subject to queries at the various stages that need to be resolved. So be realistic with your desired timescales and consider the complexity of the project. In our experience, an average of seven days to turnaround a survey report is fair, you will still get some that go past this time frame due to size, complexity or queries, but I would prefer the report to be correct rather than receive it two days earlier.
One major exception to time pressures are emergency situations, but genuine emergencies. Asbestos boarding has been damaged, there is a severe water leak that is deteriorating the asbestos materials in the vicinity. These are the times you need your asbestos contractors to react, but if they are having to react constantly due to lack of planning or communication then this can take its toll on those individuals being asked to cover the works.
Placing unnecessary time pressures on your asbestos contractors could have serious consequences, for you, your contractors and staff not to mention the surveyors, operatives and analysts attending site.
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