A recent spate of illegal asbestos dumpings has highlighted the need for more awareness and control over this dangerous material.

On August 12, a large amount of asbestos was discovered strewn along the side of a busy road in North Rocks, NSW. This incident required hours of dedicated work safely contain and remove the material.

Several roads were closed as the clean-up was undertaken, and Council General Manger Dave Walker explained that it was difficult to tell just how much asbestos had been dumped. It appeared likely that the material has been deliberately thrown from the back of a truck, as it was spread across a 300m distance along three separate roads.

The council were taking this incident very seriously, and a full and thorough investigation is now underway. If caught, the individual responsible could face a fine up to $1 million and seven years in prison. Alternatively, if a business is found to be the source of this material, penalties would climb to $5 million.

"Asbestos dumpers are the most inconsiderate and reckless of all illegal rubbish dumpers – they put the long-term health of innocent people at risk," Mr Walker said.

Educating individuals and businesses on safe asbestos removal

While most people should now be aware of the dangers of asbestos material, it seems that many individuals are still practising unsafe dumping and removal. Unfortunately, this is not only putting themselves at risk, but also their families, friends and members of the public.

When an untrained person attempts to remove asbestos from their home or business, it is possible that the deadly fibres could become attached to their clothing, skin or hair. If the individual then heads home without changing their outfit, they are unintentionally exposing everyone they come into contact with to the material.

This means that your family and friends could be inhaling asbestos fibres all because you failed to undertake safe removal procedures. This is just one reason why it is vital that any person who may be required to work with or near asbestos is provided with the necessary asbestos awareness training.

As we head into spring, it is likely that the warmer weather could encourage more homeowners to start DIY projects. Home renovations and amateur construction projects are a hot bed for asbestos exposure, with untrained members of the public unaware of the potential danger.

This is why a number of licensed asbestos removal contractors and disposal facilities across Australia have launched a campaign to spread awareness.

"Exposure to asbestos is very dangerous there are many risks involved in the removal but if people are given the correct procedure to follow and the right equipment to wear there will not be any problem," explained Justin Castelluzzo, part-owner of Adelaide-based waste management company, Metro Waste.

"We tell every person that comes to the yard what's involved in correct asbestos removal and disposal and we still get a number of enquiries each day regarding the process."

While educating the public regarding the danger of asbestos works to a point, it is also vital businesses dedicated to the removal of the deadly material access all the necessary licences and training.

Often, companies and individuals rely on official removalists to undertake the process of containing and disposing of asbestos in the home or worksite. If these organisations are staffed by workers who have not obtained adequate education, permits or licences then significant hazards are likely.

How to become a qualified asbestos removalist

If you are interested in working as a qualified asbestos removalist, or have launched a business with this intention, it is vital that you understand how to access the necessary qualifications and licences.

Under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) regulations, there are two key licences required by those removing asbestos products. Essentially, the Class A licence allows individuals to work with all kinds of asbestos, while the Class B is limited to non-friable material only.

These levels can be obtained by accessing the relevant asbestos removal training through a registered training provider, such as AlertForce.

Other crucial considerations are the asbestos supervisory licence and the assessors qualification. In some cases, asbestos removal projects will require a supervisor to be present at all times, while others may only need a qualified person on standby.

Conducting asbestos assessments with the intention of removal requires a person to hold specialist skills related to identification of hazards and control of air monitoring. Without the relevant Level 5 qualification, individuals should not be employed in this role.

More information on these particular obligations can be found at Safe Work Australia, or through your state's affiliate authority.

To access the necessary asbestos removal training to get yourself started in this career, talk to the AlertForce team today.