Asbestos Management and Consultancy for UK Highways

Over the course of several years, SOCOTEC has provided a full range of asbestos services on major highways projects in the UK, including the A14, M5 Overbury Viaduct and M20. From asbestos surveys and air monitoring to abatement work, auditing and contaminated land investigation, the organisation has made use of a wide range of consultancy and management services to support specialist projects, many of which had stringent requirements.

A14 – Cambridge to Huntingdon

Since 2016, SOCOTEC has carried out a range of consultancy services to help enable one of the country’s largest road upgrades, the Cambridge to Huntingdon A14 road improvement scheme. The services provided by SOCOTEC have included asbestos demolition surveys, air monitoring, asbestos removals project management and emergency attendance for bulk sampling. In addition to asbestos-specific works, the Asbestos team has worked in close collaboration with SOCOTEC’s Ground Investigation and Contaminated Land Consultancy teams on project-specific works, reviewing potential contaminants and hazardous materials within soils and the ground.

Asbestos surveys were completed across a range of structures and buildings, including culverts, bridges, environmental barriers, pubs, service stations, head walls, river reliefs and stretches of the highway itself. Through working collaboratively with other parts of the business, SOCOTEC’s asbestos surveys often included coring of structures to enable core sampling and analysis.

As part of the ongoing works, SOCOTEC provided a reactive service throughout in order to prevent programme delays and maintain a high level of efficiency. A project-specific email address was created to ensure communications were handled effectively and efficiently by the right people. All vehicles used on site were fully compliant with Chapter 8 guidelines in terms of their livery, while all surveyors were in possession of Safety Critical Medicals and CSCS cards as proof of qualification and safety to work on the site. Each worker was also subject to a project-specific induction to equip them with a bespoke understanding of health and safety, risk/hazards and legal compliance while working on the project.

M5 – Oldbury Viaduct

The M5’s Oldbury viaduct is 1.8 miles long and was constructed in the late 1960s. It is part of what was originally known as the Midland Links Motorway and its usage has grown to 60,000 vehicles per day in each direction. The viaduct is split into 165 separate sections, each of which is linked by joints fitted in the gaps between. A waterproofing layer protects a deck from the motorway’s run-off water, but this layer has perished over time. This resulted in damage to the concrete and some corrosion of its steel reinforcement, which required repairs.SOCOTEC worked in close collaboration with the client, providing a range of services that included materials testing, workplace exposure monitoring, pencil coring, effluent monitoring and asbestos consultancy. Having worked on the project from its inception, SOCOTEC was ideally placed to offer specialist services based on a complete and core understanding of not only the project, but also the client and their stringent delivery expectations and requirements.

The pre-existing relationship between SOCOTEC and the client ensured that the team were fully aware of the project and its specific requirements (including safety critical medicals, Chapter 8 vehicles and area-specific inductions) prior to securing the work. This prior knowledge enabled efficiency in mobilisation, delivery of value based on a full, unambiguous understanding of expectations and overall consistent and clear communication.

The asbestos consultancy works undertaken included a review of project documentation for compliance against UK and EU standards, the development and ratification of audit processes for third party contractors, air monitoring and asbestos sampling.

M20 – Smart Motorways

The M20 provides critical access to Dover, the Channel Tunnel, Heathrow, Gatwick and the wider south east, south west and the Midlands via the M26 and M25, and its use has expanded rapidly over its lifetime. SOCOTEC’s Asbestos team worked on the highway to assist with the upgrading of Junctions 3-5 to smart motorways, which included converting the hard shoulder to create a permanent fourth lane, installing new gantries, building new emergency areas and a new footbridge and improving drainage.

SOCOTEC was able to support the project by completing asbestos surveys to varying highway elements, alongside offering project management services for the removal of asbestos-containing drainage systems. The consultancy team developed a core understanding of the requirements on site and were able to offer a very reactive service that allowed the project team to hit tight deadlines and stick to the overall programme.

Upon SOCOTEC’s involvement in the project, value was added almost immediately. During attendance on site, the team were advised that the client was about to place an order for the remediation of a large stockpile of soils based on an asbestos-containing drainage pipe being placed on top of the stockpile. It had been previously advised that the entirety of the stockpile had to be removed due to visible fragments of asbestos being identified on top of the stockpile that had broken away from the pipe.

The soil around the site was tested prior to the commencement of the works, with no asbestos content identified. As the pipe was the only element of the site that was added, SOCOTEC carried out an investigation to determine whether the surface level contamination had actually impacted the stockpile as a whole. Soil sampling was completed and the pipework and any other visible fragments removed from the surface, before the soil was re-used on site under the appropriate code of practice. This was an eco-friendly and cost-effective alternative to the soil being discarded as contaminated waste and sent to landfill.

Asbestos in soils – training opportunities

While it is common practice for workers and supervisors of those who may come into contact with asbestos within buildings as part of their everyday role to receive Asbestos Awareness training, employees working within the highways sector are far less likely to participate. SOCOTEC is equipped to provide UKATA-approved Asbestos Awareness training that is specifically tailored towards highways, with a particular focus on asbestos in soils.   

For more information on how SOCOTEC can provide asbestos management and consultancy services and bespoke professional training for your business, click here.