Low Price v High Quality

The tendering of asbestos works is common practice, especially within the public sector. However, having read through various tender documents recently there are often significant failings in the process, that contravenes current asbestos legislation/guidance.

For the purpose of this article, we will focus on asbestos surveys and the associated guidance document ‘Asbestos: The Survey Guide – HSG264’, and three main areas of concern:

  • The purpose of the surveys.
  • Planning the survey.
  • Pricing the survey.

The purpose of the asbestos surveys

The guidance states ‘The dutyholder needs to consider the purpose of the survey and what information it needs to provide’. A key factor that is often overlooked and not specified within the tender is the format. If the surveys are for ongoing management then serious consideration to the format of the asbestos register and the ability to manage, amend and update the information and how the information will be made accessible to staff, visitors and contractors. If the surveys are required prior to refurbishment or demolition works then the scope of the proposed works, and therefore scope of the survey, are critical.

Planning the asbestos surveys

The guidance states ‘The key to an effective survey is the planning. The degree of planning and preparation will depend on the extent and complexity of the building portfolio. There needs to be a sufficient initial exchange of information between the dutyholder or client and the surveyor and a clear understanding by both parties of what is required. The information will be used to form the contract between the dutyholder and the surveyor.’

Too many tender specifications only provide basic information, a building name and size. In Appendix A, we have taken a list from HSG264 of information that should be established at the planning stage of the surveys.

In addition, other key considerations that could have a massive impact on the success of the survey include:

  • Access arrangements, whether that be in general to the building (specific times and days) or to areas of the building e.g. high-level access, confined spaces, lift shafts, especially when specialist equipment or attendances are required.
  • Whether the premises are vacant or occupied.
  • For refurbishment & demolition surveys, the areas and scope of work need to be agreed as well as the requirement for any re-instatement of the damage caused during the survey.
  • If any restrictions have to be imposed on the scope or extent of the survey, these items must be agreed by both parties and clearly documented.
  • Accurate plans of the building(s) and the floor layout should be obtained at this stage.

Pricing the asbestos survey

With the above in mind, it is clear that each survey will have its own scope, complexities and specific requirements, all of which could affect the price. Tender specifications which have a generic pricing matrix have not considered these factors. Examples of poor pricing schedules include: Price per square metre, price per hour, price per unit ‘survey report’. Where individual prices are requested, these should be in line with a scope of works.

When putting a tender package together examine the best method of providing the correct information and correct structure for a pricing matrix. Alternatively, you could consider creating an approved list of suppliers that operate to a common delivery specification e.g. System/Format requirements, and inline with overall contractor responsibilities. This will then allow cost to be requested from the approved suppliers as and when required based on a detailed site-specific specification and performance-based allocation of work.

The consequences of a poorly constructed tender package could be:

  • Poor quality of work and service from the winning bidder, the works, attention to detail will be driven by the price and inevitably a low price will result in poor performance.
  • If the register format hasn’t been specified, then you run the risk of the data becoming out of date and inaccurate and the possibility of retendering for the resurveying of the same properties at additional cost.
  • Poorly administered programmes and generic scopes can lead to properties being subjected to multiple attendances and surveys at additional cost, most of which would probably be unnecessary if good management data was captured and a suitable risk assessment was carried out.

You should look to spend your money on systems and services that will repay you in the long term and ultimately save you money when it comes to avoiding duplicating site visits or having to carry out the works again when they are found to be not fit for purpose.

Not spending money isn’t the same as saving money!

Appendix A – Information the asbestos surveyor needs from the client

  • Details of buildings or parts of buildings to be surveyed and survey type(s).
  • Details of building(s) use, processes, hazards, priority areas.
  • Plans, documents, reports and surveys on design, structure and construction.
  • Safety and security information: fire alarm testing, special clothing areas (e.g. food production).
  • Access arrangements and permits.
  • Contacts for operational or health and safety issues.
  • Description and use of property (i.e. industrial, office, retail, domestic, education, health care etc).
  • Number of buildings: age, type and construction details.
  • Number of rooms.
  • Any unusual features, underground sections.
  • Details about whether the buildings have been extended, adapted or refurbished.
  • Any plant or equipment installed.
  • Whether a listed building, conservation area etc.
  • Whether the surrounding ground and associated buildings or structures are to be included.
  • Previous plans, including architects’ original drawings and subsequent plans for major changes.
  • Any restrictions on access.
  • Special requirements or instructions.
  • Responsibility and arrangements for access.
  • Whether survey damage is to be made good (refurbishment/demolition surveys).
  • Site-specific hazards (mechanical, electrical, chemical etc).
  • Responsibility for isolation of services, power, gas, chemicals etc.
  • Working machinery or plant (including lifts) to be made safe
  • The location of all services, heating and ventilation ducts, plant rooms, riser shafts and lift shafts.
  • Details of any previous asbestos surveys, current asbestos registers and records of removals.
  • Information on possible repairs to ACMs, e.g. pipe/thermal insulation.