How do I choose the right asbestos management company?
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was once used in building materials. When asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) are intact, there’s not generally a risk of exposure. But disturbing the asbestos can release its microscopic fibres into the air.
Inhaling the fibres can cause them to lodge in the lungs. This can cause deadly diseases decades in the future. Risks include lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Whenever you suspect the presence of asbestos, contact a qualified management company. You should also hire an expert if you’re planning a demolition or renovation project.
- 1 What is the role of an asbestos management company?
- 2 Factors to consider when choosing an asbestos management company
- 3 The importance of detailed quotations and transparent pricing
- 4 Additional considerations
- 5 Final thoughts about hiring an asbestos management company
What is the role of an asbestos management company?
Asbestos management companies handle an assortment of asbestos-related projects. For example, they can offer consulting before you begin a demolition project. They may also handle the disposal of waste or an asbestos contamination event. Key services include:
- Surveying to determine if asbestos is present
- Testing and analysis to confirm if a material contains asbestos
- Planning and managing the removal of asbestos
- Awareness training for employees
Only skilled and trained specialists should work with ACMs. Even something like taking a sample of a material for analysis can be dangerous. It can produce free-floating asbestos fibres. If inhaled, they become extremely dangerous.
Anybody who is handling asbestos should know exactly how different ACMs behave. They should also know the risks of asbestos exposure and ways to stay safe.
It’s also important to hire a company that complies with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. This ensures that the company follows various recommendations and requirements, such as:
- Conducting an asbestos survey before work begins on a building.
- Requesting that surveyors are properly accredited.
- Ensuring that consultants and contractors have the correct training.
What happens if you hire a company that doesn’t follow these regulations? The duty holder of the premises could face fines or prosecution.
Factors to consider when choosing an asbestos management company
Here are several checklist items to keep in mind when looking for an asbestos management company.
Accreditation and certifications
Ask for evidence that they have competent and trained employees. Also check that the company has received important accreditations, certifications, and licences.
Not every asbestos-related job requires accreditation or certification. For example, surveyors don’t have to be legally accredited. However, the HSE recommends that they are accredited to standard ISO/IEC 17020.
Accreditations include those from Achilles, CHAS, and SafeContractor. These accreditations aren’t mandatory. However, a company that has them demonstrates safe working procedures. It will also be audited by independent external organisations.
There are specific types of asbestos-related work that require licensing. They include:
- Cleaning up asbestos dust.
- Performing work that can disturb pipe lagging.
- Working with loose fill insulation.
In Great Britain, there’s one type of accreditation recognised by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). It’s given by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). According to the HSE, “This means that where organisations are required to be accredited for regulatory purposes, this must be done by UKAS.”
The following is an example of when accreditation is required. According to the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, only analysts that work for a UKAS-accredited laboratory can be used when testing material for the presence of asbestos. They must be accredited to International Standard ISO/IEC 17025.
Experience and expertise
The type of building you’re in charge of will determine the asbestos professionals you hire. That’s because different buildings have different types of ACMs. You want to work with a company that has experience with your type of building and its particular ACMs.
Construction materials can vary from residential to commercial buildings. The same is true within these categories (warehouses versus hospitals, for example). A company that’s familiar with your type of building will know what approach to take.
Furthermore, asbestos professionals often specialise in a particular area. For example, a contractor may perform the removal of ACMs. A consultant may oversee the project to ensure it’s being handled correctly. (Note that only a senior-level professional should be appointed as a consultant for an asbestos project.)
The best asbestos management companies will have several experts on the team. Together, they’ll handle all areas of asbestos surveying, removal, and training.
Reputation and track record
As with just about anything you pay for these days, it’s smart to see what others are saying before moving forward. A company with a track record of happy customers is more reliable than one with zero online reviews.
Look for online references, reviews, and testimonials. It’s best if these come from an off-site source. A company will only post its best reviews on its own website, after all.
It’s also okay to ask for references so that you can contact previous clients about their experiences. It’s best to connect with references who recently had work done that’s similar to the work you’re having done.
Compliance with regulations and safety standards
A reliable asbestos management company will adhere to local and national asbestos regulations and best practices. These include:
- Using up-to-date equipment. Outdated equipment can be both inefficient and unsafe.
- Having a decontamination unit. Workers have to be cleaned of asbestos traces before leaving the worksite.
- Knowing the guidelines for disposing of different types of asbestos waste.
These types of safety standards keep everyone as safe as possible. This includes the asbestos workers; employees, occupants, and visitors; and anyone in the area. Also, when asbestos is handled responsibly, there won’t continue to be risks on the premises once the work is complete.
Asbestos management companies operate in a high-risk industry. Asbestos is toxic, and exposure to it can cause life-threatening illnesses. Asbestos experts, as well as anyone else on the premises, are at risk of asbestos exposure.
Responsible asbestos management companies will have employee compensation and public liability insurance coverage. This legally protects employees as well as third parties in the event of injury or harm during an asbestos project.
Getting insurance for an asbestos management company can be costly, though. That’s why most companies that perform non-licensed work have little coverage. If something goes wrong, it can be expensive. That’s why this type of insurance costs so much.
HSE licence holders must prove that they have sufficient, suitable insurance coverage for all of the asbestos work performed. That’s why you may feel safest going with a licensed company.
Keep in mind that you may find that non-licensed companies have lower prices. They’re able to undercut standard industry pricing because they don’t have to make up for the high insurance rates. However, as mentioned, this comes with a lot of risk though.
The importance of detailed quotations and transparent pricing
When it comes to asbestos management companies, the higher the cost, the more reputable the company. This is because reliable companies have insurance, which is costly. They’ll also have trustworthy experts and specialty equipment. All of this raises the rate. A quote that’s too low should be a red flag.
On the other hand, you don’t want to be taken advantage of. This is why having a clear, itemised quote is best. You want to avoid hidden costs that will surprise you later on.
A good tactic is to get quotes from a few different companies. Compare services and costs to get a sense of what’s normal and what may be missing from some of the quotes.
Customer service and communication
It’s important for the asbestos management company you choose to address your concerns quickly. Moreover, they should provide updates throughout the process. You can start to assess their level of communication during the trial phase. From your first contact, pay attention to the customer support they deliver.
Environmental and health and safety responsibility
There are several regulations about asbestos management and disposal. These guidelines keep workers and pedestrians safe. They also protect the surrounding environment. It’s important to choose a management company that prioritises environment-friendly asbestos removal and disposal methods.
For example, according to the HSE, asbestos waste has to be handled and packaged to avoid the release of fibres. Waste should be double-wrapped in heavy-duty bags and labelled appropriately.
The type of landfill where asbestos disposal is brought matters as well. Certain landfills can only handle certain types of asbestos waste. Otherwise, it would contaminate the surrounding land.
Final thoughts about hiring an asbestos management company
Need an asbestos management company? First, look for ones with the proper credentials. These include accreditations, certifications, and licences. From there, you want to consider the expertise of the team. Also take into account the regulations and safety standards they follow.
It’s also wise to contact references. And don’t forget about looking online for reviews. The goal is to get a feel for repeat experiences others have had. You’re bound to have a similar experience.
By taking the appropriate steps, you’ll work with a company that takes asbestos management seriously. This will keep their team and anyone in or around your premises safe during and after the project. Prioritise your safety by selecting a reputable, qualified management company.
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.