What is Asbestos
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was once used in building construction. Asbestos is defined as a hazardous substance made from fibrous silicate minerals including actinolite, amosite (brown asbestos), anthophyllite, chrysotile (white asbestos), crocidolite (blue asbestos) and tremolite or any mixture of the forms.
Why is Asbestos so Dangerous?
Asbestos and asbestos related products can be highly dangerous with potential fatal, long term consequences if handled incorrectly. The fibres may break off or flake and become so small they remain airborne longer and can pass undetected into the respiratory tract. Breathing in the fibres brings a risk of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Asbestos may be found in many homes depending on their age and in many different forms. Renovations in any way, or demolition of structures MUST only be undertaken after a Risk Assessment to determine if asbestos products may have been used in the structure.
Under NSW occupational health and safety legislation, material that contains asbestos is referred to as friable or bonded. Bonded asbestos material is any material that contains asbestos that is bonded and cannot be crushed by hand when dry. Friable asbestos material is any material that contains asbestos that is in powder form or can be crumbled by hand when dry.
- A Bonded Asbestos Licence is required to remove, repair or disturb more than 10 square metres of bonded asbestos material such as fibro, corrugated asbestos cement sheeting and asbestos cement pipes.
- A Friable Asbestos Licence is required to remove, repair or disturb any amount of friable asbestos, such as sprayed limpet, asbestos cloth, millboard and pipe lagging.
Issues relating to the identification, handling and removal of asbestos and asbestos containing material are governed by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 No 10 and the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011. The Act and Regulation are regulated and enforced by WorkCover NSW however the act applies to all places of work and all involved in the work. The removal of more than 10m2(total of the job) of bonded asbestos may only be done by someone appropriately licensed by WorkCover NSW for bonded asbestos removal.
If the total of the asbestos material to be removed is under this amount, then a license is not required however precautions are still required to be undertaken to ensure the safe removal of bonded asbestos for the removalist and others in close proximity.
In this regard, Council approval is required prior to any demolition works being carried out.
Safe removal of Asbestos
The handling of asbestos in NSW is regulated by WorkCover NSW and removal MUST only be carried out by persons licenced by WorkCover NSW.
NSW Governments publication Fibro & Asbestos – A Renovator and Homeowner’s Guide contains a safety checklist, guidance on safe disposal of fibro and some general tips about what to do if fibro is damaged.
For more information see Safe Work Australia (Asbestos) .
Additionally an asbestos hotline has been launched to provide free advice and guidance on asbestos-related issues for the NSW community. The NSW Asbestos Hotline number is 1800 ASBESTOS (272 378).
Requirements for Building Demolitions and Renovations
Any works that may involve demolition which may result in the disturbance and/or removal of asbestos based materials is to be undertaken in accordance with the provisions of the WorkCover guidelines – Safe Work Australia (Asbestos) and in accordance with Australian Standard AS 2601 – 2001, Demolition of structures.
Before renovating, visit asbestosawareness.com.au to learn where asbestos might be found in your home, the dangers of disturbing it and how best to manage it.
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