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Just when we thought the nation’s insulation woes were over, Mr Fluffy rears its ugly head again. Mr Fluffy loose-fill asbestos was used as insulation in houses in the ACT and NSW in the 1960s and 70s. It wasn’t until the late 1980s and early 90s that the government conducted a mass clean-up of the potentially lethal substance.
Approximately one thousand Mr Fluffy homes in the ACT were declared safe to live in. But in 2014 it was discovered that the houses still contained asbestos with traces of the potentially deadly fibres found inside the living areas of some homes, on pillows, in children’s cupboards and central heating systems. In the years since then, more than five hundred of the almost nine hundred homes acquired by the ACT Government under a buyback scheme have been demolished.
In at least two of the recent cases, owners were alerted to the asbestos by people working on the house. In 2016, for example, asbestos was identified by a tradie trained in asbestos awareness. Asbestos awareness training was mandated by the ACT Government in 2014 for all workers working with asbestos or asbestos containing materials and it is a fantastic result to see asbestos awareness training pay off in such an important way.
Having tradies who are trained to identify the possible presence of asbestos or asbestos-containing materials is a hugely valuable resource especially given that asbestos will for many years yet be a scourge on Australian buildings. As Councils and State Governments create ways for communities to manage and eliminate the threat of old asbestos – as in the Canberra buyback scheme or places like the town of Holbrook in NSW – the demand for workers trained in asbestos awareness and removal will continue.
As we know, dodgy insulation is not the only asbestos legacy Australia has to deal with. As the renovation renaissance in this country continues, so too does the risk of exposure to the asbestos and asbestos-containing materials that exist in so many Australian houses. So fraught with risk is renovation in older houses that since 2014, claims due to renovations have outstripped other causes, exceeding expectations and raising insurance claim projections.
So tradies who have recognised expertise in asbestos awareness and assessment are a valuable resource. If you are a home owner looking to transform your fixer-upper, then it’s worth dealing with tradies who are trained to spot asbestos when they see it. Image being that Canberra tradie who spotted the Mr Fluffy asbestos – talk about hero of the hour! That kind of expertise can go a long way to saving people a lot of grief and a lot of pain.
If you are a tradie looking to get trained up or you’re a would-be renovator wanting to know what to look for in a builder or a tradie then here are some essential tips:
- There are two types of removal licence and a licence to be an asbestos assessor:
- A Class A licence allows you to remove friable and bonded asbestos along with asbestos-contaminated debris or dust.
- A Class B licence allows you to remove non friable or bonded asbestos, like fibro sheets
- To be eligible for a removal licence, you must have, among other conditions, a competent supervisor with industry experience.
- A licenced asbestos removalist will have proper documentation confirming their expertise. This is a good way to check that you’ve got the right people for the job with legit qualifications. And for licenced tradespeople, it’s a useful way to prove your credentials.
- Removing asbestos without a licence is can result in hefty fines. And if done incorrectly poses a risk to everyone involved. Check with your relevant Work Health and Safety body if you’re unsure.
Adding asbestos awareness, assessment and removal training to your range of capabilities as a tradesperson is an effective way to make yourself more in demand for a wider range of jobs. Companies employing teams of tradies will also benefit from great value group training and the knowledge that, when your team are on the job, they are in the best position possible to be on alert for asbestos. As long as asbestos contaminates Australian homes – whether via insulation like Mr Fluffy, or other materials – workers need asbestos training to ensure asbestos never gets a second chance to harm.
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