What Are The Current Asbestos Regulations? Understanding the HSG264 guide

It might seem quite remarkable to many observers today that asbestos – a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral that has not been legal to import and use in the UK since 1999 – was once so widely used in this country. The substance was incorporated particularly frequently into building materials during its peak period of use from around the 1950s until the 1980s.

Key Points of This Guide

  • Survey Importance: HSG264 guides dutyholders on asbestos surveys, crucial for locating and assessing ACMs in properties, required for creating management plans.
  • Guide Scope: HSG264, or ‘Asbestos: The Survey Guide’, provides comprehensive guidance on conducting asbestos surveys, including planning, execution, and reporting.
  • Target Audience: Aimed at surveyors, managers, and anyone responsible for managing asbestos in non-domestic premises as per CAR 2012.
  • Legal Compliance: Following HSG264 is crucial for legal compliance with asbestos management regulations, helping avoid severe penalties for non-adherence.

HSG264 Guide

Throughout that era, asbestos was often mixed in with other materials, and used in the manufacture of products ranging from asbestos cement roofing, cladding, and sprayed coatings to loose fill insulation, guttering, and fire blankets. The material was popular in the construction industry on the basis of such advantages as its relatively easy availability, affordability, physical strength, fire resistance, and effectiveness as an insulator.

Unfortunately, however, as the 20th century progressed, the general public became increasingly aware of the extremely serious health risks posed to people who breathed in or swallowed asbestos fibres, such as construction-industry workers or individuals who otherwise disturbed asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) within buildings. To this day, such asbestos-related health conditions as mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer still cause around 5,000 deaths a year in the UK.

Inevitably, pressure on politicians to restrict the substance’s use intensified, although it took until the end of the 1990s for a final ban to be imposed on all types of asbestos in the UK. Fast-forward to today, and strict legislation is now in place dictating how asbestos should be managed in the many buildings up and down the country in which ACMs are still present. Such stringent measures are crucial for protecting public health.

Today, the main overarching asbestos legislation in the UK is the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012). A key element of CAR 2012 is the “duty to manage” asbestos in non-domestic properties, which obliges “dutyholders” (including the likes of building owners and landlords) to take reasonable steps to determine whether ACMs are present in their properties.

Asbestos surveys play a critically important role in discovering this information. The purpose of an asbestos survey is to enable a dutyholder to learn about the presence, location, amount, and condition of ACMs in their buildings. The accurate information uncovered through this surveying process can then be used to put together an asbestos register and an asbestos management plan for the given premises.


What is HSG264?

The series code “HSG264” refers to a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publication otherwise known as Asbestos: The survey guide. It was first published in 2010, with its second – and current – edition following in 2012. A free PDF copy of this book, which replaces and expands on MDHS100, Surveying, sampling and assessment of asbestos-containing materials, can be downloaded from the HSE website.

Readers of this guide will find comprehensive information on all manner of aspects of competence and quality assurance and asbestos surveys, encompassing such essentials as survey planning, the process of carrying out an asbestos survey, the survey report, and the dutyholder’s use of the survey information. Extensive appendices and references are also incorporated into the book.

Who is HSG264 aimed at?

The heavily illustrated document known as HSG264 is aimed at people undertaking asbestos surveys, as well as people who have specific responsibilities for managing asbestos in non-domestic premises in accordance with CAR 2012.

The HSG264 book – which is meant to serve as a complement to other guidance on asbestos management – is also an invaluable source of guidance in situations where surveys may be undertaken for other purposes. An example of such a situation would be when there is a need to “manage” asbestos in a domestic property in line with broader health and safety legislation.

There is a wide range of stakeholders who may need to know the details of responsible asbestos surveying and management that are contained within the HSG264 publication. These include such figures as asbestos surveyors themselves, as well as the likes of health and safety professionals, property managers, building owners, tenants, and contractors.

The relevance and importance of the HSG264 book to asbestos surveyors themselves should be relatively self-explanatory. However, the clients and dutyholders that commission surveys will also find this publication extremely useful, given that it sets out how to determine which type of asbestos survey is appropriate, how to decide on a competent surveyor, and what the client should expect from whatever surveyor they ultimately choose.

Building professionals, such as architects, designers, and building surveyors, as well as demolition and asbestos removal contractors, will also find the HSG264 publication’s guidance useful. Architects and building surveyors, for instance, need to be aware of the requirement to undertake asbestos buildings surveys.

For contractors, meanwhile, it is necessary to be able to interpret asbestos surveys to allow for refurbishment or demolition to be planned and undertaken in a safe manner.

What essential knowledge should asbestos surveyors have?

We referenced above that a huge range of types of asbestos products exist, and that great numbers of these ACMs still exist in many properties up and down the UK today, encompassing public, commercial, and public buildings alike. Many of these ACMs may have also deteriorated in condition with age, or been disturbed in the past – all factors that can impact on the level of health risk that these products pose, and what steps should therefore be taken to manage them.

It is therefore of the utmost importance for asbestos surveyors to know about such common ACMs as loose insulation, sprayed coatings, thermal insulation, asbestos boards, and textile items like ropes, yarns, and gaskets, to cite just a few examples.

Sure enough, Appendix 2 of HSG264 comprises a table made up of “ACMs in buildings listed in order of ease of fibre release”. For each of the products listed, details are provided about their typical location and use, as well as the type(s) of asbestos that they usually contain, and the ease with which dangerous asbestos fibres may be released from the given ACMs.

The above is, of course, all extremely important and useful information for asbestos surveyors to know, so that they can do their job more safely and effectively. However, the HSG264 book also further backs this up with invaluable details about the legal requirements for asbestos management and surveys, as well as on the health risks that ACMs can pose if disturbance (and the associated release of fibres) does happen.

What are the different types of asbestos survey?

As one would expect from a document entitled Asbestos: The survey guide, HSG264 also provides useful information about different types of asbestos survey. The publication describes two broad types of asbestos survey: management surveys, and refurbishment or demolition surveys.

A management survey is the standard type of asbestos survey; it is required during the given building’s normal occupation and use, in order to ensure continued management of ACMs “in situ”.

A dutyholder under CAR 2012 may arrange for this type of survey to be carried out, as a means of locating, as far as reasonably practicable, the presence and extent of any suspect ACMs on the premises. Although the exact degree of intrusion of a management survey will depend on the nature of the specific premises, this type of survey is often associated with minor intrusive work and some disturbance.

A refurbishment or demolition survey is the type of asbestos survey that becomes necessary when the given building – in whole or in part – is set to undergo upgrading work, refurbishment, or demolition. Dutyholders arrange this type of survey in order to locate and describe, as far as reasonably practicable, all ACMs in the area where the refurbishment work will take place; if it is demolition that is planned, the surveying work will need to cover the entire building.

One of the major respects in which this type of survey typically differs from a management survey, is that it is fully intrusive, entailing whatever destructive inspection may be necessary to gain access to all areas, such as those that may otherwise be difficult to reach.

As the above explanations hopefully make clear, your decision on which type of survey to have carried out will largely depend on whether the building is in normal use and you are simply monitoring and managing ACMs at the premises over time, or you are arranging for major work to be carried out at the property that would present a high risk of disturbance to ACMs.

How do you plan and conduct an asbestos survey?

As the first sentence of the fourth chapter of the HSG264 guide states, “the key to an effective survey is the planning.” This is the part of the publication that is dedicated to survey planning, and you will find advice and information here on various essential aspects of the asbestos survey planning process. This includes what information the surveyor will require from the client (the dutyholder), as well as what information the client should expect from the surveyor.

The planning process for the dutyholder will include considering the purpose of the asbestos survey and the information the survey needs to provide. They will need to determine the specific type of asbestos survey that is required, as well as the format they would like the resulting report to be in (such as in the form of an asbestos register, drawings, printed or electronic documentation).

As for the asbestos surveyor, their own planning procedure can be summed up in the following steps:

  • Collecting all the relevant information to plan the survey. Ideally, this will entail the surveyor conducting a preliminary site meeting and a walk-through inspection. Correspondence through phone, email, and/or post can also help with this process.
  • Considering the information (desk-top study). Once the aforementioned information – encompassing such aspects as the given premises, building structures, processes, and machinery types – has been collected, the surveyor will need to carefully review it. This will enable them to plan the survey strategy.
  • Preparing a survey plan, including how data will be recorded. This written plan will essentially outline the content of the survey, and can form the basis of a contract with the client. This plan will normally specify a broad range of aspects, ranging from details about the scope of the survey and the survey procedure, to personnel and safety issues, and what the final report will look like.
  • Carrying out a risk assessment for the survey. Inevitably, the process of conducting an asbestos survey will present certain health and safety issues for surveyors, as well as sampling personnel and building occupants. A risk assessment, then, will be a critically important part of the planning stage for an asbestos survey. It will need to establish all the hazards at the premises, followed by identifying the correct precautions and procedures in a plan of work for the survey.

Chapter five of HSG264 goes on to set out extensive information on the asbestos surveying process itself. This includes coverage of the bulk sampling strategy and procedures, as well as the material assessment. As this part of the guide emphasises, it is crucial for an asbestos survey to be carried out methodically, systematically, and diligently, to ensure all ACMs on the given site are spotted and documented.

Sampling is normally carried out at the same time as the survey. The sampling strategy eventually chosen will depend on a number of factors, such as the size and numbers of the premises/rooms, as well as the extent, types, and variation in materials present.

Once samples have been collected from the site, they will need to be analysed, followed by reporting of the results. The laboratory report should, for each sample, provide a clear statement of whether asbestos was found – and if asbestos was indeed detected, it should also state the type of asbestos identified.

How do you report and document survey results?

Scroll through to page 41 of the HSG264 publication, and you will find chapter six, which covers the survey report. This report will be a record of the information collected through the surveying process on the presence and condition of ACMs at the surveyed premises.

Given that the information and data contained within the survey report will be used to put together the risk assessment and management plan, it is of critical importance for – in the words of HSG264 – “extreme care and attention” to be paid to the process of assembling the report. Any errors in the report could lead to incorrect conclusions – and as a result, inappropriate decisions being made.

As the HSG264 document explains, the survey report should be completed in a written format, and supplied as a hard copy, an electronic document, or both. It should be comprehensible and useable for the client, and comprise the following sections:

  • The executive summary;
  • An introduction covering the scope of work;
  • General site and survey information;
  • Survey results, including the material assessment results;
  • Conclusions and actions; and
  • Bulk analysis results.

What are the health and safety considerations?

The task of ensuring the best possible health and safety practices will be one of the uppermost priorities for the typical asbestos surveyor.

In accordance with this, the HSG264 guide contains extensive information on such aspects as the importance of carrying out a risk assessment prior to work starting, as well as control measures, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and the provision of adequate information, instruction, and training (including refresher training). Such measures will be crucial for ensuring both on-site safety and compliance with the regulations.

Many people are very familiar with the risks of asbestos inhalation that can be posed to surveyors in the event of ACMs being disturbed and fibres being released. However, surveyors and dutyholders must also be alert to other potential hazards, such as dealing with electrical cables, and working at heights.

How important is compliance with HSG264?

The legal consequences of failing to comply with the asbestos regulations can be severe. If it is found, for example, that a given dutyholder does not have a plan in place for dealing with asbestos at their premises, they could be hit with a fine of up to £20,000, or sentenced to up to six months in prison.

Serious breaches of the asbestos regulations, meanwhile, can result in an unlimited fine and/or two years’ imprisonment for those found guilty. These legal risks further underline the critical role that HSG264 can play in helping to ensure compliance.

Where can I find additional resources and training?

The “References” section of the HSG264 book includes a list of other HSE publications that provide authoritative advice and guidance on a wide range of matters of asbestos management, such as working with ACMs, and how health and safety can be ensured in construction settings.

Additional useful information can be found on the HSE website, as well as in the Learning Centre section of our own site here at Oracle Solutions.

Conclusion: adhering to HSG264 is of critical importance for dutyholders and surveyors alike

When it comes to the management of overall asbestos risks at premises for which you are responsible, it will be of the utmost importance to ensure all the correct procedures for asbestos surveys are followed. This will encompass knowing how to choose the most appropriate asbestos survey for the given time and circumstances, in addition to practising the highest standards with regard to planning, sampling, documentation, and health and safety.

Complying with the information and guidance laid out in HSG264 constitutes best practice in asbestos surveying, which will help ensure you achieve the most accurate and worthwhile results from this vital process.

As a quality assured and accredited provider of asbestos management, refurbishment, and demolition surveys alike here at Oracle Solutions, we can help give you the very greatest peace of mind and protection. To learn more and to receive a quote, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

What Are The Current Asbestos Regulations? Understanding the HSG264 guide 1

Written by Jess Scott

Jess Scott has been an all-round asbestos consultant since 1996. That’s nearly 3 decades of asbestos knowledge. He spends his time sharing that knowledge with the team at Oracle and with their clients. Jess's goal is, and always has been, to use my expertise in helping people to comply with the law. This legal compliance ultimately helps to protect everyone from the harmful effects of asbestos. Jess has acted as an asbestos expert witness in legal cases and is involved in many asbestos educational activities throughout the UK.