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Concerns over safe asbestos removal
When asbestos has been discovered in a home or workplace, the next step needs to be organising safe and efficient removal.
While the asbestos usually poses little risk before removal, the process of exaction can often create many risks to the removalists’ health due to disturbed fibres becoming airborne. In extreme cases, the removal can also spread asbestos fibres beyond the building site, putting neighbouring properties at risk.
It is therefore important for businesses and property owners who discover asbestos to enlist the services of an individual or organisation that has completed adequate asbestos removal training.
Under Work, Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations, more than ten square metres of bonded (non-friable) asbestos must be removed only by a licensed and trained individual or business. Removal of any amount of un-bonded or friable asbestos requires a licensed person or organisation.
Within these regulations, individuals in Australia working in asbestos removal have the option to be trained in Class A or Class B qualifications.
Completing a Class B asbestos removal course gives an individual the training they need to safely remove any non-friable asbestos. This includes asbestos cement sheeting and other materials where asbestos fibres are bonded to other materials.
However, even bonded asbestos can become friable when degraded, which means individuals holding a Class A qualification should be called when dealing with damaged property.
Class A training allows an individual or business to remove all type of asbestos, including un-bonded and friable. This includes asbestos found in powdered form or material that can be crushed into dust by hand.
The difference in training is important for protecting the health of the removalists and all residents of neighbouring properties. This is because friable asbestos poses a much higher risk of becoming airborne and drifting over communities.
Businesses operating within the asbestos removal industry are required to ensure their staff are adequately trained and licenced to deal with the extraction of all kinds of asbestos. Additionally, notice of removal and monitoring of the process is an essential step in following WHS regulations.
Notice of removal
Due to the hazardous nature of airborne asbestos particles, businesses undergoing an asbestos removal process must notify both Safe Work Australia and their neighbouring properties to ensure all precautions are being taken.
According to the Western Australian Department of Commerce, the notification condition of asbestos removal requires an individual or business to provide WorkSafe WA with the following information:
- Name and contact details of the licenced contractor in charge of removal
- Name and address of property requiring removal
- Type of premises, such as retail store, hospital or private residence
- Whether the building is occupied
- What type of asbestos is present and in which form
- Anticipated date of removal or treatment
Once Safe Work has permitted the removal to go ahead, it is best practice for a business or removalist to notify the residents within the surrounding community. This will allow individuals to take precautions such as closing their windows, turning off any outside air intake systems and ensuring those who are at risk stay indoors on the removal days.
While the monitoring of workers removing asbestos may not always be required (particularly when working with bonded material), it is recommended to ensure safety procedures are being followed at all times.
This includes enlisting an individual who has experience in supervising asbestos removal, which is a vastly different qualification to asbestos removal training.
A supervise asbestos removal course will enable a worker to plan for and monitor the removal process, including ensuring compliant removal practices are being followed, maintaining safety procedures, and supervising the decontamination and disposal of the material.
This supervisor can also be made responsible for the supply and use of personal protective equipment necessary for the safe removal of asbestos, such as breathing apparatuses, protective clothing and water for dampening down dust particles.
Monitoring should also take into account the surrounding areas, including workers operating outside the removal area and the risk of airborne particles spreading across neighbouring properties.
If necessary, static monitoring devices can be used to detect asbestos particles across the boundary of the removal area. This will help determine if control measures are effective and should assist in limiting the exposure to individuals in surrounding locations.
Air-monitoring can also be used to alleviate the concerns of specific workers and individuals by conducting exposure tests within breathing spaces. If asbestos is detected in this area, it is important to take evasive measures as soon as possible. This includes removing the individual from the scene, widening cordon areas and enacting effective prevention procedures.
These processes must be followed at all steps of an asbestos removal plan, including the preparation of the site, the disposal and the contamination or workers and material used.
For more information on asbestos removal training and processes, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.
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