Sometimes a project comes along that is truly unique. That’s the situation that the BBC’s DIY SOS Big Build brought to OMC when renovating the former St Silas’ Church Hall in Blackburn, Lancashire. The project was an engaging one, with the unusual goal of having to create an asbestos-safe space for multiple contractors to work in, all of whom were giving their time and skills for free. The result was equally exciting, with the successful completion of a new sports and accommodation centre for young homeless people in the local area.

The Goal

A familiar project with a unique twist

Like many older public buildings, the dilapidated parish rooms of St Silas’ Church in Blackburn were filled with hazardous asbestos. Its presence posed a real risk for the local tradespersons challenged with safely renovating the space for use as a residential setting. As renovations require standard asbestos assessment, encapsulation, removal, and on-going management, this is an environment where asbestos monitoring is routine. However, this project included some unique challenges. Perhaps the most crucial was carrying out the asbestos work in a way that did not compromise the timescales of the local tradespeople – all of whom were working in their own time – whilst maintaining impeccable levels of care and safety.

The theory

In older public buildings, asbestos is found in everything from ceilings, to doors, to floors. As such, asbestos removal can be time-consuming, risky, and unpredictable. When projects have tight or unusual timescales, providing high-quality asbestos surveying and abatement without competing with other schedules is critical, as until the asbestos is safely managed little else can move forwards. To get it right, teams need to be able to work together with excellent planning, design, and communication, as this avoids both errors and unnecessary delays. The experience of the asbestos specialists is therefore vital in securing the best outcome.  

How We Helped

What we did

As is required in this type of asbestos management, OMC came in prior to the start of the renovation to provide analytical air monitoring and clearance testing in support of the asbestos removal team. The practical phase was preceded by planning to enhance the efficiency of the project and to guarantee the timelines. As such, our role involved ensuring that the control measures put in place by the asbestos removal company complied with all four stages of the correct standards, enabling us to issue a certificate of reoccupation once the work had been completed. After this, the contractual work commenced.

The theory

Without a certificate of reoccupation, the entire project is halted. This affects any project, but when large numbers of contractors are working together, delays are particularly troublesome. They can cause frustrations, create problems for contractors and their suppliers, and increase health and safety risks further down the line. Therefore, the quality of air monitoring and testing needs to be reliable, trustworthy, and supportive.  

The Outcome

Any project that brings benefit to the local community is exciting, but this project was particularly dynamic. Importantly, with the support of OMC, the safe, accurate, and timely clearance of asbestos by local contractors showcased the ability of teams to come together to breathe new life into an important building. The story was aired on the BBC’s Children in Need Special in November 2019, and, although the building could not be used during lockdown, once it re-opened the first arrivals were “so happy that they cried.”  

Get in touch today to find out more about our asbestos surveys and management services, and how we can help your organisation improve safety on site.

Image Source: Lancashire Telegraph