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Eight questions to ask before removing asbestos from your property
Removing asbestos from your property is serious business. If you’re doing it yourself, then make sure you know what the legal requirements are and stick to them. If you’re getting in the experts, then have a good sense of what their obligations are so you have peace of mind that they are getting the job done safely. Here are a few key questions to ask before you undertake asbestos removal:
1. How can I tell if its asbestos?
You can’t tell if something contains asbestos just by looking at it. You can make a pretty good guess by taking into account the age of the house and the kind of material it is, but beyond that, specialised examination by an accredited expert is required. It’s best to err on the side of safety and assume that, if the material is likely to have been installed before 1990, then it will contain asbestos.
2. All asbestos is the same, right?
Nope. The three main types of asbestos used in a wide range of materials are:
- Chrysotile (white asbestos)
- Crocidolite (blues asbestos – and widely regarded as the most potentially lethal)
- Amosite (brown or grey asbestos)
But for the purposes of identifying asbestos containing materials in your property, the two categories you need to be aware of are:
- Unbonded or friable asbestos which is where the raw mineral is used as lagging or insulation and easily gives off harmful fibres and dust;
- Bonded or non-friable asbestos where asbestos is mixed with other materials like cement and is less likely to release fibres or break up.
If disrupted, however, bonded asbestos can still be dangerous. Once it’s broken up, it releases fibres into the air.
3. But if I’m not using power tools then I don’t have to worry, right?
Wrong. It’s not just drilling or sanding that you can’t do. There are a number of things you need to avoid doing around asbestos, including but not limited to:
- Don’t use high pressure hoses as they can spread loose fibres or dust
- Don’t drag one sheet of, say, asbestos fibro over another – same reason: it can spread fibres
- Don’t walk around on asbestos cement roofs – if they’ve deteriorated there’s a danger of falling through
- Don’t scrape or hand sand asbestos surfaces – again with the risk of spreading fibres
4. So is removing asbestos a job for me, or should I get the experts in?
If you’re just sealing or painting asbestos cement surfaces, then you can do this yourself using the usual safety precautions for that kind of work e.g. making sure there is adequate ventilation. If you are planning on doing any kind of work that might disrupt the asbestos fibres – i.e. sanding, drilling, cutting, significant house renovations – then it’s definitely a job for the experts because this is the kind of work that will release asbestos fibres into the air.
5. But can’t I remove small amounts of asbestos myself?
In NSW, yes, you can remove up to 10sqm of bonded asbestos but only by following extremely strict guidelines. Otherwise you must hire a qualified asbestos removalist or gain the appropriate training and certification yourself.
6. What kind of asbestos removal licences are there?
There are two types of removal licence and a licence to be an asbestos assessor.
A Class A licence allows you to remove both friable and bonded asbestos as well as 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.
7. How do I know if they are legit?
Ask to see the licence documents of your asbestos removalist before engaging them for work and make sure that all their workers have completed the appropriate training. Don’t be afraid to ask! It’s your property and your wellbeing and your money – so make sure you get the right people for the job. Check with your relevant Work Health and Safety body if you’re unsure and be aware that you can be fined for engaging a non-licenced removalist.
8. Do I have to let anyone else know?
Your licenced removalist is required to let the relevant state regulatory body know about any transport of asbestos before it happens. Again, you are entitled to ask your asbestos removalist if they have done so. If you’re doing some major demolitions, then it’s likely that you will have had to get council permission and this will have involved alerting your neighbours – they might want to make themselves scarce on the day that the asbestos is being removed. Likewise, you need to let any other tradespeople or visitors to the property know that asbestos is being managed so they can take the appropriate precautions.
Asbestos removal is no walk in the park. It requires careful preparation, planning and specialised training. If you’re looking for training options, give us a call so we can tell you about our accredited asbestos removal training courses.
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