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How training is the best way to get asbestos out of our news headlines

Another week, another round of asbestos-related news headlines. It just goes to show that asbestos and the damage it can cause continue to be a major source of concern. As long as asbestos still exists in buildings across the country, training to identify and remove it safely will be essential to businesses, local councils and homeowners.

The biggest headlines of the last several weeks came out of the US where a controversial and highly technical new rule has put the spotlight back on the way asbestos is managed in that country, one of the few developed countries that has not place an outright ban on asbestos. The US Environmental Protection Agency maintains that the new rule will place tighter regulations on the use of asbestos whereas its critics claim it will allow for wider use of asbestos.

Fortunately, in Australia we don’t have to worry about that kind of controversy given asbestos has been completely outlawed here since December 2003. In Australia it is illegal to import, store, supply, sell, install, use or re-use asbestos and asbestos-containing materials. That doesn’t mean, however, that asbestos-related risks are not still significant. Approximately one third of all Australian homes are likely to contain asbestos and if your home was built before 1990 then it is extremely likely to contain asbestos or asbestos-containing materials. Some of the areas you might find asbestos include:

  • Roofing and gutters
  • Gables and eaves
  • Walls
  • Vinyl, carpet and tile underlay
  • Imitation brick cladding
  • Fencing
  • Sheds
  • Splashbacks in wet areas
  • Telecommunications pits
  • Window putty
  • Expansion joints
  • Packing under beams
  • Concrete formwork

With the fervour for home renovation showing no signs of slowing down, it is essential that anyone dealing with asbestos in the home is properly trained and equipped to deal identify, manage and remove asbestos. That includes builders, tradies, contractors and the homeowners themselves. Proper asbestos awareness training will mean that anyone in contact with the substance during the course of renovations is alert to the risks and how best to mitigate them. AlertForce runs a range of asbestos awareness, assessment and removal training courses to suit all needs and levels of expertise.

Sometimes the presence of asbestos in a building creates a public risk such that the entire building must be demolished. We saw an unfortunate but necessary example of this recently in the NSW town of Holbrook where residents are saying a sad farewell to a much loved 1900s building containing loose-fill asbestos. The building has been purchased by Property NSW and the councillor of the Greater Hume local council are currently reviewing a DA by the Public Works Advisory to demolish the building. Colin Kane is the environment and planning director and, while acknowledging the heritage and aesthetic value of the building, has recommended the demolition be approved. “There is a public benefit in maintaining people’s health by fully demolishing the building… (and) it should take precedence over the loss of a building with aesthetic and heritage value,” he said.

Holbrook has benefited over the last two years from a community assistance package put into place to help residents whose homes were affected by loose-fill asbestos insulation. The Greater Hume community was “hit hard by this deadly product”, said Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Matt Kean, and the extra support was going a long way to help. The local council has also pitched in with funds to help affected residents.

Where contaminated houses have been demolished and the land restored, the Great Hume local council has shown interest in purchasing the now safe allotments with some talk of health-related facilities in the making.

The Holbrook example shows not only the staggering impact that asbestos can have on a community and its residents but the way in which local council can take part in both assisting those residents and then helping revitalise land once affected by asbestos.

Local councils are an important part of any community’s on-going battle with ridding their neighbourhoods of asbestos and will benefit from ensuring their staff and contractors are properly training in the identification, assessment and removal of asbestos. In this way residents and local council can work together with contractors to ensure a safer, more viable community and to make the most of federal and state funding issued for that purpose.

Let’s work together to make asbestos news good news. Give us a call today to hear about our asbestos training options.

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