What is the difference between asbestos removal and asbestos remediation or abatement?

The terms “asbestos removal”, “asbestos remediation”, and “asbestos abatement” are frequently used almost interchangeably; however, they significantly differ in their meaning and scope.

It is crucial to understand what those differences are, if you are to most effectively address any asbestos that might be present in a building for which you are responsible.

difference between asbestos removal and asbestos remediation

What is asbestos removal?

The term “asbestos removal” refers to the process of eliminating asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) from a building or structure.

The dutyholder for a given premises who chooses asbestos removal, will arrange this work in order to physically remove all ACMs or other materials that contain asbestos, such as asbestos insulation, tiles, or pipes.

Typically, the asbestos removal process begins with the careful inspection and assessment of the given premises or area, in order to identify asbestos.

This is followed by the affected area being isolated and contained. Then, trained professionals make use of specialised techniques and equipment to safely remove and dispose of the ACMs, in compliance with local regulations and guidelines.

The term “asbestos removal”, then, typically refers to the process of asbestos being completely eradicated from a given premises where it might be present.

What is involved in the process of asbestos removal?

In summary, the following are the four main stages of asbestos removal:

  1. Inspection and assessment
  2. Containment and isolation
  3. Removal of ACMs
  4. The proper disposal of ACMs

The importance of hiring a licensed asbestos removal contractor

If you are looking to arrange the removal of asbestos from your property, it will be crucial to ensure the individual who undertakes the removal is suitably qualified.

As part of this, you should determine whether the asbestos removal work will require the removal contractor to hold a licence from the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Not all forms of asbestos removal work legally require a licence. However, if the work to be done on the asbestos on your premises is higher-risk – as is often the case with asbestos removal – a licence will be required in order to carry out this work.

As we wrote in our recent article on choosing an asbestos removal company, while some asbestos removal work may not strictly require a licence, it can be a very wise choice to use a licensed removal contractor regardless.

This is because a contractor holding a licence indicates that the HSE is confident in the competence of the contractor to undertake a wide range of asbestos work. This knowledge, in turn, will help give you peace of mind.

What is asbestos remediation or abatement?

Whereas the term “asbestos removal” is used in reference to the elimination of asbestos from a given premises, “asbestos remediation” or “asbestos abatement” refers to the management and reduction of asbestos hazards, without ACMs necessarily being removed from the site.

The focus of asbestos remediation or abatement techniques is on minimising the scope for asbestos fibres to be released into the air. This, in turn, helps to lower the health risks associated with asbestos.

You might choose an asbestos remediation or abatement approach in situations where it is not practical or feasible to completely remove asbestos from the given site – for example, where asbestos removal would be prohibitively expensive, or where it would cause excessive structural damage to the premises.

Various techniques come under the broader banner of “asbestos remediation”, including encapsulation, enclosure, or repair of the ACMs to prevent the release of asbestos fibres. These processes are typically followed up by ongoing monitoring and/or maintenance, to help keep occupants and users of the given premises safe.

What is involved in the process of asbestos remediation or abatement?

Below are the four broad stages of asbestos abatement or remediation:

  1. Inspection and assessment
  2. Evaluation of the risk and management options
  3. Encapsulation or enclosure of the ACMs
  4. Regular monitoring or maintenance

Benefits and limitations of asbestos remediation

One of the biggest reasons why many dutyholders opt for asbestos remediation or abatement over removal, is its cost-effectiveness.

The exact situation for you will depend on the circumstances of your property and any ACMs present. However, asbestos removal may be an especially expensive option if there is a need to preserve the qualities for which the ACMs were installed in the property in the first place (for example, insulation or fire resistance). In these circumstances, having the asbestos enclosed or encapsulated may be the more cost-effective route.

Remediation or abatement methods such as encapsulation can also be quicker than asbestos removal, and may present lower risks of asbestos exposure during the process itself. In some settings, the removal of asbestos may necessitate renovation work in order to preserve the structure of the building, which is another factor that can drive up the hassle and cost.

But of course, asbestos remediation or abatement comes with limitations of its own – not least the fact that if asbestos is not removed, it will still be present on the site. It will therefore still need to be managed and maintained on an ongoing basis. You will also need to be mindful of the presence of asbestos in instances where it might be at risk of disturbance in the future – for example, if renovation or refurbishment work is planned at the premises.

In some situations, then – especially when the asbestos might be assessed to present a high risk of disturbance, with the associated dangers to health – the decision might be made to remove asbestos, instead of leaving it in place.

What are the differences between the two, and which is right for you?

Below are some of the key areas of difference between asbestos removal on one hand, and asbestos remediation or abatement on the other:

  • Scope: while the aim of asbestos removal is to eliminate all ACMs in a given premises or location, asbestos remediation or abatement focuses on managing and reducing asbestos hazards, with some ACMs typically left in place
  • Objectives: with asbestos removal, the objective is to eliminate the source of asbestos. Abatement or remediation aims to minimise the potential for asbestos fibres to be released into the air, and the health risks that such fibre releases can present
  • Techniques: asbestos removal entails the physical extraction and removal of ACMs. By comparison, asbestos remediation or abatement encompasses techniques such as encapsulation, enclosure or repair, with the aim of minimising the release of fibres
  • Cost and feasibility: it is often more expensive to arrange for the removal of asbestos from a given site than it is to carry out remediation or abatement, especially in cases where significant structural modifications may be required. In certain scenarios, then, asbestos abatement or remediation might be the more cost-effective option
  • Legal requirements: whether you choose asbestos removal or instead asbestos abatement or remediation for your given site, you will need to ensure compliance with relevant regulations, such as the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012). However, the exact requirements that apply to each option are likely to differ.

As we touched on above, the exact nature of the asbestos work that is to be carried out on your premises, will determine whether it is a legal requirement for an asbestos contractor to hold a HSE licence.

With regard to abatement or remediation, if asbestos is left in place at your site, you will need to comply with the legal requirements for monitoring and managing it over time. This is because the risk that particular ACMs pose can be liable to change over time – for example, as a result of deterioration in their condition or disturbance.

Do you require any of a wide range of asbestos removal or remediation services?

Hopefully, the above will have left you much more informed about the differences between asbestos remediation or abatement, and asbestos removal.

As we explained above, asbestos removal typically focuses on the physical elimination of asbestos from a given property or site. Asbestos abatement or remediation, on the other hand, places the emphasis on managing and reducing asbestos hazards, which may or may not include some element of asbestos removal, alongside such methods as repair, enclosure, and/or encapsulation.

If you are responsible for the maintenance or repair of a given non-domestic premises, you may be a “dutyholder” for the premises in question, as defined by CAR 2012. In this case, you would have a “duty to manage” asbestos on the site, and would therefore be responsible for controlling asbestos risks in order to protect the health of those who occupy or use the premises.

If this describes your situation, it is important to be proactive, so that you can take the necessary steps to address asbestos-related issues on your site. That, in turn, means it is crucial to seek out professional advice and assistance, so that you can be sure of only adopting the safest and most effective practices in your management and handling of asbestos.

To find out more about the wide range of asbestos services that we can provide as accredited and licensed asbestos professionals here at Oracle Solutions, and to request your free and fast quote, please get in touch with us via phone or email.

What is the difference between asbestos removal and asbestos remediation or abatement? 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.

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