How do I choose an asbestos removal company?
There are various legal and moral responsibilities that you may have, as an individual or business, in relation to a commercial, public, or domestic premises. One potential area of concern in this regard could be any asbestos that is confirmed to be present on the given site, and the question of how to manage the material or have it removed altogether.
Today, the very word “asbestos” is synonymous with harmfulness to human health. Indeed, it is known that merely breathing in or ingesting fibres of this naturally occurring mineral can lead to the development of potentially fatal health conditions, such as mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer.
However, for many decades before its importation and use in the UK was banned in 1999, asbestos was extensively used in several of this country’s key industries, such as construction and shipbuilding.
The material was highly regarded due to such qualities as its relatively easy availability, strength, and fire resistance, and was consequently incorporated into all manner of products, ranging from asbestos insulating board (AIB) and asbestos cement products to roofing felt, rope seals, and gaskets.
Fast-forward to today, and asbestos is no longer legally used in such processes as the construction of new commercial, public, or residential buildings. However, many buildings that were erected prior to the year 2000 do continue to contain asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in various forms.
In the event of those ACMs being disturbed, there could be a risk of the release of loose asbestos fibres, thereby potentially imperilling the health of someone nearby.
This, combined with the stringent regulations that now exist for the management of asbestos on sites up and down the UK, should help you to understand just how crucial the services of a reputable and experienced asbestos removal company can be.
Given the very real risks to health that can arise from the improper management of asbestos, as well as the regulatory requirements around asbestos management, you will not wish to choose an asbestos removal company that is inadequately qualified, or that will take unneeded risks.
So, below, we have outlined some of the most important things for you to know when you are choosing between asbestos removal companies.
Types of asbestos removal companies
Particularly if you have never been in a situation in the past in which you have needed to hunt out and compare asbestos removal companies, you might understandably find yourself confused by the sheer variety of such businesses out there.
So, to help make things easier, below are the three main types of asbestos removal company to be aware of:
- Licensed contractors, who have been licensed by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
- Trained asbestos operatives or companies
- Contractors, such as roofers, who happen to have asbestos training
The question of which of these types of asbestos removal company you should be targeting, will largely depend on your circumstances and needs when you are looking to have asbestos removed.
If, for instance, there are licensed asbestos products – such as the aforementioned AIB or pipe lagging – that you need to have removed from the site for which you are responsible, then you will require the services of a contractor that has been licensed by the HSE.
Alternatively, it might be the case that the products you need to have removed from the given site are exclusively non-licensed ones, encompassing the likes of asbestos cement products or floor tiles. In this situation, you will be able to take your pick between a licensed or a merely trained contractor.
However, we would urge caution on that latter point. Any kind of asbestos removal work can be exceedingly difficult, and a contractor might tell you that they are trained, or “think” they are trained, only for that to not be the case.
Any training that the contractor has will also need to be of a suitable standard – we’ll touch more on that subject in a moment. Furthermore, they must be well-organised and experienced in this type of work.
You should also be wary of a given contractor or company’s prices seeming suspiciously low compared to their industry rivals. Although low prices are not automatically an indicator of low standards in a given asbestos removal company, they can be in some cases. So, you will need to take the time and care to ascertain what you will be getting for your money.
What should you check for when choosing an asbestos removal contractor?
When it comes to something as important as deciding on a safe and responsible asbestos removal contractor, you will need to make sure you are not taking any unnecessary risks.
So, here are some of the characteristics we would advise you to keep an eye out for:
There are certain circumstances in which a licence will be needed in order to work with asbestos. Regulation 2 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012) sets out those circumstances, including where employees’ exposure to asbestos is not sporadic and of low intensity, as well as where the risk assessment is not able to clearly demonstrate that the control limit will not be exceeded.The same piece of legislation goes on to say that work on asbestos coating also counts as being “licensable work with asbestos”.And the same can be said of work on AIB or asbestos insulation, for which the risk assessment (i) demonstrates that the work is not sporadic and of low intensity; (ii) cannot clearly demonstrate that the control limit will not be exceeded; or (iii) demonstrates that the work will not be short in duration.
So, to summarise, for the removal and disposal of licensed high-risk asbestos, it is essential to have an HSE licence.
There are some companies that make clear they only do non-licensed asbestos removal. However, due to the very nature of such work not requiring a licence, it can be very difficult to determine whether such a company is competent, as they would only require a one-day non-licensed training certificate.
If, on the other hand, a certain asbestos removal company is licensed, this indicates that the HSE considers the given contractor to be competent and knowledgeable enough to undertake all asbestos remediation work, no matter the level of risk.
So, even if the asbestos removal work that you are looking to have carried out is “merely” non-licensed, you may be very well-advised to seek out a licensed company regardless. Using someone who lacks a licence to carry out non-licensed work is a risky endeavour, as it can be very difficult to check for that person or organisation’s competency.
Closely linked to the above matter of the licensing (or lack of licensing) of a given asbestos removal company, is the subject of insurance. It is expensive for an individual or organisation to get insured for asbestos removal work, and most companies or contractors that do non-licensed work have very little insurance cover.By contrast, HSE licence holders are required to prove that they have sufficient and suitable insurance cover for all asbestos works carried out. If something goes wrong, it can be very expensive – hence the huge cost of insurance.Asbestos removal companies or contractors that don’t have such insurance in place, can undercut the prices of those that do – another reason why, as we referenced above, you might look upon very low prices with suspicion. The fact is, you could be taking a lot of risk if you choose an asbestos removal company that uses its lack of expenditure on insurance to offer low prices.
- Industry accreditations
It isn’t technically required for an asbestos removal company to have further accreditations such as CHAS (The Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme), SafeContractor, and Achilles.However, if the contractor or firm you are considering does have such accreditations, this will serve as further evidence of good, safe working procedures, as audited by trusted and independent external organisations.
- Experience and expertise
Both experience and expertise are crucial things to look out for in an asbestos removal company or contractor.A company having been in operation as an asbestos removal specialist for many years more than the alternatives will signal that it has built up a good reputation for the quality of its services over an extended period of time, and has managed to stay in business as a result.When assessing the expertise and experience of a particular company or contractor, you should be looking to ensure they are knowledgeable in the latest asbestos regulations and best practices.
Ways of assessing and verifying this aspect of a company or contractor include asking for testimonials and looking at the reviews of their asbestos removal services that might be available online.
- Procedures and types of equipment used
You should make sure the company you choose uses up-to-date equipment and procedures, in order to ensure the service you receive from them will be both safe and efficient.The vacuum cleaners that your chosen asbestos removal company uses, for example, should contain fine HEPA filters for the efficient sucking of tiny asbestos particles from the air. In addition, the company should use polythene sheets in order to prevent asbestos fibres from ending up in uncontaminated areas of your premises.With other essential pieces of equipment for an asbestos removal contractor including a decontamination unit for the cleaning of asbestos traces from workers, and a negative air machine for releasing air out of the workroom, you will need to ask whether these items are used by the contractor you are considering.
Not only that, but is the given equipment both up to date and well-maintained? Be sure to ask about the firm’s procedures in this regard.
- Waste disposal methods
You will also want to be confident that your chosen asbestos removal company uses safe and appropriate waste disposal methods.One of the most crucial things to do here, is to check whether the contractor has a valid waste carrier licence. All waste brokers, dealers and carriers in England are required to have this certification.As for the waste management and disposal methods themselves, they should include the double-bagging of asbestos remains inside plastic sheets, and the attachment of hazard warnings. In addition, the vehicle the company uses for the transportation of asbestos waste should have a lock, as well as a separate chamber for the actual asbestos.
- Cost and value for money
If you have been reading this guide from the beginning, you will have already noticed that we have mentioned cost several times, so you will know it is an important factor.Given how sensitive and specialised a task asbestos removal is, it really is crucial to think in terms of value for money when you are comparing asbestos removal services, and not just the headline cost. It really is a field of endeavour in which the cheapest service is not always the best.After all, it costs serious money for the most reputable licensed asbestos removal firms to provide their workers with the necessary high standard of training, and to acquire the necessary specialised equipment.
So, it is important to be aware that licensed companies are likely to charge more for their services than their unlicensed counterparts. This, in turn, means you are likely to be getting a better and safer service for the greater outlay.
A good tip here is to obtain multiple quotes from different companies, and to look beyond the specific price quoted, considering exactly what each firm offers you for the price it charges.
- Openness, transparency, and communication
Openness, transparency, and a good standard of communication are all signifiers of good customer service from a company, whether or not the given firm provides asbestos removal services.There are, though, a few reasons why such qualities might be particularly important in an asbestos removal company. You will, after all, want to find a firm that is happy to provide references indicating the effectiveness and safety of its work.However, it is also a good thing to engage an asbestos removal company that is able to challenge you as its client, if it needs to do so. When it comes to such a specialised field as asbestos removal, the customer might not always be right!
So, if there is a particular asbestos removal company you are considering, you should be keeping a close eye out for signs that the company in question has strong customer service and communication skills. Those signs will include its responsiveness, availability, and willingness to answer questions.
You won’t regret taking the time to ensure you hire the right asbestos removal company
As we have hopefully made clear with all the above tips and guidance, there will be a lot for you to think about when you are on the lookout for an asbestos removal company. Such factors as licensing, expertise, experience, the types of equipment used, and the waste disposal practices of the given firm – as well as, of course, price – will all feed into your decision-making.
So, whether you are a property developer, builder, contractor, or anyone else involved in land management, we would strongly urge you to bear all the above in mind, and to ensure you engage only licensed and skilled remediation personnel.
Would you like to request a quote for asbestos removal from our own experts at Oracle Solutions? If so, it is a straightforward process to reach out to us, as you can do via email or by calling our team today.
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.