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Hi, my name’s Jimmy and I’m a tradie. I often come across asbestos containing materials on the job. It was commonly used in the construction of homes and buildings because it was affordable, flexible, strong, fire and water resistant. Until the mid eighties, Australia had one of the highest rates of asbestos use per person in the world. Asbestos was used in over 3000 products with many of those used in the construction and residential building industries. Tradies are now one of the most at risk groups of people when it comes to asbestos exposure because they are dealing with asbestos installed in buildings. Some trades that commonly deal with asbestos containing material include plumbers, electricians, bathroom and kitchen renovators, painters, mechanics, building industry workers, home handymen, floor covering experts, and more. If it’s sealed in a good stable condition and left undisturbed, asbestos should pose no health risk. Asbestos only poses a risk to your health if it is disturbed without proper controls.
For example, by cutting, drilling, grinding, braking, sanding, or using household vacuum cleaners to clean up asbestos dust. When asbestos fibres are released into the air, they can be inhaled, which can cause life-threatening diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. Around 4,000 Australians die every year from asbestos related diseases, that’s double the road toll. Unsafe work practices when working with asbestos puts not only you and your coworkers at risk, but also anyone else that may come into contact with it. If you get asbestos fibres on your work here and then go home wearing those clothes, your family might also be put at risk. It is absolutely critical if you’re a tradie, you need to be asbestos aware. If you work with asbestos, you need to follow safe workplace. If you employ workers who work with or remove asbestos materials on the job, then you are required by law to advise them of the health risks associated with asbestos, provide them with asbestos awareness training, and provide them with health monitoring. There are penalties for not complying.
When you’re on the job, you need to be aware of places asbestos might be hidden. It lurks in far more materials than you might think. Some of the more obvious materials you will find asbestos are in walls, ceilings, roofs, insulation, or fire doors. But it could also be hiding in bathrooms and kitchens, under floors, behind or under tiles, in pipes and down pipes, fences, window putty, and mastics. If you’re a plumber, you might also find it in pipe lagging, cement pipes, rope insulation, sewer vents, flue pipes, or gutters. Electricians might find it in electrical boards, insulation, fuse linings, or conduits. The only way you can positively identify whether a product contains asbestos is to have a small sample tested at a NATA accredited laboratory. To get a sample tested should cost between 60 to a 100 dollars. The cost to have a sample tested and to use a licensed asbestos removalist to remove asbestos materials is far less than it is for the remediation of a property, which has been contaminated with asbestos fibres.
There have been incidents where cleanup costs after asbestos contamination have cost thousands of dollars. Don’t forget the risk to lives from inhaling asbestos fibres can be fatal. SafeWork New South Wales always recommends that licensed asbestos removalist be used for any amount of asbestos removal work. They have the appropriate asbestos awareness training and equipment to do the work safely. If you’re unsure whether asbestos is present, but you suspect it is then lose your she’ll be right mate attitude and call and asbestos professional, like a licensed asbestos assessor to check before you start work. It’s not worth the risk. Make sure you watch all of our videos about working safely with asbestos to help keep you, your trading mates and everyone around you safe. For a list of licensed asbestos professionals in New South Wales or for more information, then visit www.safework.nsw.gov.au/asbestos or call 13 10 50.
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