The value and usefulness of the survey can be seriously undermined where either the client or the surveyor imposes restrictions on the survey scope or on the techniques/method used by the surveyor. Information on the location of all ACMs, as far as reasonably practicable, is crucial to the risk assessment and development of the management plan.

Any restrictions placed on the survey scope will reduce the extent to which ACMs are located and identified, incur delays and consequently make managing asbestos more complex, expensive and potentially less effective. In management surveys, surveyors should be properly prepared for accessing all reasonably practicable areas in all parts of the building.

Potentially difficult to enter areas (including locked rooms etc) should be identified in the planning stage with the dutyholder and arrangements made for access. In situations where there is no entry on the day of the survey, a revisit should be made when access will be possible. Where there are health and safety risks associated with some activities (eg height, confined spaces), these should be adequately assessed and arrangements made to control them.

Any area not accessed (and where no other information exists) must be presumed to contain asbestos and be managed on that basis. In refurbishment surveys, the area and scope of the work will need to be agreed between the dutyholder and the surveyor. In these surveys and in demolition surveys there should be no restrictions on access unless the site is unsafe (eg fire-damaged premises) or access is physically impractical.

The level of intrusion will be significantly greater than with management surveys. It will include accessing structural areas, between floors and walls and underground services. Some areas may be difficult to gain entry to and/or may need specialist assistance or equipment. Access arrangements need to be fully discussed in the planning stage and form part of the contract, particularly where assistance has to be engaged.

Where access has not been possible during refurbishment and demolition surveys, these areas must be clearly located on plans and in the text of the report to allow the refurbishment and demolition processes to be progressive in those areas. Any ACMs must be identified and removed at this time. It is now recognised that even with ‘complete’ access demolition surveys, all ACMs may not be identified and this only becomes apparent during demolition itself. Surveyors need to be competent to do all the relevant work and tasks in this class of surveys. They will need some knowledge of construction, be able to carry out the work safely and without risk to health, have the correct equipment to do the work and have the appropriate insurance.

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. They should be agreed before work starts and are likely to form part of the contract. If during the survey, the surveyor is unable to access any location or area for any reason, the dutyholder must be informed as soon as possible and arrangements made for later access. If access is not possible, then the survey report should clearly identify these areas not accessed. Limitations should be kept to an absolute minimum by ensuring that staff are adequately trained, insured and have the appropriate equipment and tools.