Asbestos safety

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material that was used in building products such as cement sheeting, drains and flue pipes, roofing, guttering and flexible building boards etc. prior to 1983. It is estimated that 1 in 3 Australian houses built before 1983 contain a substantial amount of asbestos.

Asbestos and your health

When asbestos products are maintained in good condition and left undisturbed, the risk posed to your health is insignificant. It is not until the asbestos products are disturbed, weather beaten, broken, drilled or sawed that fibres can become airborne allowing them to be inhaled or ingested, presenting a risk to your health.

There are two categories of asbestos material:

  1. Bonded asbestos - e.g. A.C sheeting. If asbestos is found in this bonded form and in the location where it is unlikely to be disturbed by weathering or renovation, removal is not always the best option. Other options such as sealing or covering it may be used. If you are planning to work with over 10m2 of this form of asbestos you will need to employ a contractor who is licensed with WorkCover. Council recommends that any work involving the demolition or disturbance of Asbestos be dealt with by WorkCover approved contractor.
  2. Friable asbestos - can be crushed by hand pressure when in a dry state. Of the two categories this form of asbestos presents the greatest risk to health. To work with this form of asbestos you are require to be licensed with WorkCover. As a rule you should assume that, if the material was put in place before 1983, it contains asbestos. For positive identification have the suspect material sampled and analysed by a NATA registered laboratory.

Asbestos in your home, what to do?

If you have asbestos products around your home and are concerned about the implications for your health, you need to assess whether those products are in a good condition. When in a good condition, it unlikely that asbestos fibres will release and end anger your health and the best option is to leave this material in its current state ad keep well maintained.

If you are renovating and disturbance of asbestos is inevitable, or materials containing asbestos are not in a good state of repair and need to be removed, WorkCover’s minimum precautions should be followed, these and other information can be found in the WorkCover Health and Safety Guidelines, for a copy phone (02) 8260 5885 or www.workcover.nsw.gov.au.