Ensuring asbestos compliance at the University of Durham

“We insist on high standards where asbestos is concerned and the Inspectas team can be relied upon to meet our requirements.”

University of Durham Head of Asset Maintenance, Michael Crinnion

Identify, manage, remove is the mantra of Inspectas’ Asbestos Manager Byron Cooper whose specialist advice, consultancy and expertise has supported the inhouse facilities management team at the University of Durham since 2020.

With 10 years of personal experience in the asbestos removal sector, supported further by the expertise of a team of asbestos management consultants back at the Inspectas West Yorkshire base, Byron’s role also includes delivering high quality training for those needing to work alongside historic asbestos materials which may be inherent within older premises on the campus.

Byron explains:

“Working alongside the onsite project and compliance team, I’m here to run all areas of asbestos management – identify it, manage it, remove it and where necessary, train the team to work alongside it.

Durham has an outstanding asbestos management plan for its 370 buildings and it is crucial that the plan remains up to date to ensure we are constantly ahead of any change or potential changes in the building environment. Here at Inspectas, we assess the full site periodically and consistently re-evaluate any risk factors from low to high.

We take on all of the big responsibilities for asbestos management on this site as well as providing cost effective solutions, managing the tender process for removal contractors and ensuring all correct documentation is in place.”

Asbestos is not just a problem of the past. It can be present today in any building built or refurbished before 2000.

Asbestos was widely used for areas such as lagging on plant and pipework, insulation products such as fireproof panels, cement roofing material and sprayed as coatings on structural steel work to insulate against fire and noise. It can also be hidden in a building, for example in cavity walls. Asbestos only becomes a risk to human health when it is released into the air and breathed in.

Byron adds:

“Everything we do at Inspectas for the University of Durham is in accordance with the Health & Safety Executive requirements. With many older buildings, asbestos is in the places we would expect and it can also be in the places we wouldn’t expect.

Our role is to identify where it is and where or if it presents a risk to people in and around it. Our aim is always to get asbestos free, but it is a challenge and management has to be incredibly sensitive when working in an education setting with accommodation and 24-hour teaching.

“Trust is integral to our role here on site and establishing strong relationships is critical to effective management, open discussion and fast action.  It’s as important to know the people and the site as it is to know where the asbestos is. We have an excellent partnership here at Durham and it’s both a pleasure and a privilege to support and advise such a forward thinking team.”

Inspectas In Action – a case study

The Department of Archaeology at Durham University has a large basement area which had been used for the storage of samples.

Following an assessment of this space in 2023 as part of the university’s asbestos management responsibilities – managed and undertaken by Inspectas – it was deemed no longer suitable for storage due to the presence of encapsulated asbestos containing materials (ACMs).

As a consequence, the large number of samples stored in this space needed to be removed, cleaned and a new dedicated ‘clean’ storage space created in the basement for the Department of Archaeology to use for sample storage.

Senior Technical Manager Archaeological Science, Dr Beth Upex, said:

“Byron Cooper worked closely with the Department of Archaeology from the outset of this project, identifying our needs and concerns, undertaking reassurance air monitoring and working to identify a process for extracting, cleaning, storing and then relocating our samples.

The work was carefully co-ordinated and planned with the department to ensure there was no disruption to our teaching, to student projects or to research activities. Byron was hugely communicative and accessible to the department throughout the two weeks of work and ensured that the project was completed and managed seamlessly from start to finish.

The project was completed on time the Department of Archaeology now has a dedicated storage space which is clean and free from ACMs.”

University of Durham Head of Asset Maintenance, Michael Crinnion, adds:

“We have worked with Inspectas for a number of years and have built a good working relationship through their consultancy services.  We insist on high standards where asbestos is concerned and the Inspectas team is aware of this and can be relied upon to meet our requirements. 

We have found them to be accommodating when working within strict timescales, and they have delivered works to the required standard to meet our agreed deadlines.  I would have no hesitation in recommending them for similar works.”