Asbestos

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Asbestos was commonly used in building materials from the 1940's until the mid 1990's. Because exposure to asbestos can cause disease, a national ban on the manufacture, importation and installation of products containing asbestos was introduced from 1 January 2004.

Where can asbestos be found?

The inhalation of asbestos fibres may result in serious diseases, such as asbestosis, mesothelioma or lung cancer. Because the level of exposure that may cause health problems is unknown, any exposure to asbestos should be avoided. It is estimated that at least one in every three buildings constructed between the 1940’s and 1990’s contain asbestos products.

Asbestos may be found either firmly or loosely bound in a number of products once used in the Australian building industry, including:

  • roofing and shingles
  • under eaves
  • exterior wall cladding
  • interior walls and wet areas
  • fencing
  • thermal boards around fireplaces and in switch boards
  • backing material on floor tiles and vinyl flooring
  • gaskets and seals in wood stoves
  • textured paint
  • garages and workshops
  • the brakes, clutches and gaskets of cars
  • insulation used on hot water pipes, hot water cylinders, domestic heaters and stoves

What does asbestos look like?

It is very difficult to identify asbestos by looking at it. If you are uncertain about what a substance is, you should treat it as though it contains asbestos. The only way to be certain is to have a sample analysed by a laboratory. A licensed asbestos removalist could also help identify materials containing asbestos.

What should I do if I find asbestos?

If you are concerned about any asbestos in your home you should contact a licensed asbestos removalist who can assist you. A list of licensed asbestos removalists can be found on the Work Safe Tasmania website or by contacting the Workplace Standards Helpline on 1300 366 322.

May I remove asbestos from my home?

It is recommended that you contact a licensed asbestos removalist if you are considering having asbestos removed from your home. Asbestos is dangerous and while it is not illegal for you to remove asbestos from a property that you own, you are strongly advised not to do so unless you have undertaken training and are competent in safe asbestos removal practices.

You must consider your health and safety if you are considering doing asbestos removal. You must also consider the health and safety of other people in the area, including children, and people on neighbouring properties. These people may be exposed to asbestos fibres released during removal works. 

How do I dispose of asbestos?

Asbestos is classified as a hazardous material, so there are rules about how it can be transported and where it can be disposed of. If you are planning to remove asbestos yourself, you need to contact the Health Department first. They can tell you about any planning approvals or permits that are required before you begin. Please note that asbestos is accepted at the Spreyton Waste Transfer Station in the Devonport City Council area.  

The asbestos material must be double wrapped, no longer than 1.2m, delivered during normal operating hours and you must pay the relevant fees depending on the quantity.

The 20 Point Asbestos Safety Check

  1. At least 1 in 3 Australian homes contains asbestos including brick, weatherboard, fibro and clad homes.
  2. Asbestos was widely used in building materials before 1987 so if your home was built or renovated before 1987 it most likely contains asbestos.
  3. If asbestos is disturbed during renovations or maintenance your health and the health of your family could be at risk.
  4. DIY is not recommended where asbestos is present.
  5. When renovating or working in and around homes, if in doubt assume asbestos materials are present and take every precaution.
  6. Dealing with asbestos is important and serious, but it’s not overwhelming – IT IS MANAGEABLE!
  7. If you’re not sure if asbestos is in your home you can have it inspected by a licenced removalist or a licensed asbestos assessor.
  8. Products made from asbestos cement include fibro sheeting (flat and corrugated), water, drainage and flue pipes, roofing shingles, guttering and floor and wall coverings. It could be anywhere!
  9. If you find asbestos in your home; Don’t cut it! Don’t drill it! Don’t drop it! Don’t sand it! Don’t saw it! Don’t scrape it! Don’t scrub it! Don’t dismantle it! Don’t tip it! Don’t waterblast it! Don’t demolish it! And whatever you do… Don’t dump it!”
  10. If left undisturbed asbestos materials in good, stable condition are unlikely to release dangerous fibres and pose a health risk. Generally, you don’t need to remove the asbestos. Paint it and leave it alone but remember to check it occasionally for any signs of wear and tear.
  11. There are legal requirements regarding asbestos management, its removal and disposal.
  12. While some might follow the regulations and safety requirements to remove small amounts of asbestos, the safest way to manage its removal is to retain a licenced professional asbestos removalist equipped to protect you and your family from the dangers of asbestos dust and fibres.
  13. Where asbestos fibres are friable (loose and not bonded into building materials), ONLY licenced friable asbestos removalists are allowed to remove it.
  14. Professional removal of asbestos is affordable. You can’t afford not to use a professional!
  15. The cost of asbestos removal by a licenced professional is comparable to most licenced tradesmen including electricians, plumbers and tilers.
  16. The cost of disposal at a lawful site is often included with the cost of removal by a licenced professional.
  17. If you must work with any material that may contain asbestos or remove asbestos yourself, protect yourself and your family and follow the legal and safety requirements for the management of asbestos to minimise the release of dust or small particles from the asbestos materials.
  18. There are a number of safety precautions you will need to take including wearing specific protective clothing, the correct mask or breathing apparatus and ensure you minimise dust and dispose of it legally.
  19. Never use tools on asbestos materials as they will make asbestos fibres airborne including: Power tools such as electric drills, angle grinders, circular saws and electric sanders.  Never use high pressure water blasters or compressed air.
  20. Don’t play renovation roulette! Think Smart. Think Safe. Think asbestosawareness.com.au – Because it’s not worth the risk

Important Safety Facts To Know When Working With Asbestos