Guidance on How to Remove Asbestos Safely

Asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) have been part of the live of Australian people. This dangerous material can be found in almost every building, from houses, commercial buildings, hospital and schools. One of the schools that was affected by the presence of this fibrous material is the Newcastle University.

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One of the older buildings in the university, The McMullin Building, is the living proof of how this hazardous fibre was extensively used years ago and has handed down a huge burden on today’s administrator.

The building, which was built in 1985, was found installed with various ACM building products that were stereotypical of that era. The university has been actively committed to the removal of asbestos including the risk management in the building since the mid-1980s. Although they have put a lot of effort in removing this toxic material as much as possible, the risks remain until now.

Based on a 2015 record, the ACM was still found to be present in ceiling coating, window sealant, soft lining of the eaves of the building and switchboard insulation. These findings confirmed that some materials are non-friable and are less risky. While the remaining others are dangerous and can become airborne easily.

Asbestos, tragically, has left a devastating loss amid thousands of Australians. Many people died due to being infected by the fibres. It has been reposted that asbestos-related cases would reach a peak between 2020 and 2030. Experts estimated that asbestos-related diseases would infect 40,000 people in the near future.

Where Can Asbestos Be Found in the Building?

The ACM was often installed in almost one-third of housing in Australia. There were approximately 3000 ACM products and Australia was one of the top users per capita in the world. One of many ACM products that was massively used as house material is asbestos cement (AC) sheeting.

The products were mostly used for:

  • Roofing
  • Eaves
  • Fencing
  • Exterior and interior wall cladding
  • Siding sheet
  • Thermal boards around fireplaces
  • Flue or water pipes

Asbestos can be found in almost every part of your building. Let’s trace where asbestos can be found in.

Roof cavity Loose fill insulation (not usual)
Living areas AC sheeting in ceilings, beneath wood-heater hearths, and walls
Bathroom, toilet also laundry Asbestos cement sheet ceilings, walls and floors, wall tiles backing
Kitchen Ceilings, splashback, walls, vinyl sheet flooring backing, ceramic tiles underlay sheeting and vinyl floor tiles
Backyard Garages, garage sheds, fences, carports, outside toilets and dog kennels
Exterior Roof and wall sheeting (corrugated, flat and patterned sheet), roof gutter, lining under eaves, ridge capping, imitation brick cladding

How to Confirm the Presence of Asbestos

When you want to ensure whether your place was installed with any fibrous material, you need to do a testing. This material cannot be inspected only by looking at the object without any help from an apparatus.

Asbestos testing is the only possible method to identify any fibrous object within a building. The first step is to collect some samples of the suspected materials. Note that sampling process can be dangerous if you are not familiar with asbestos. It is possible that you accidentally disturb the object, causes it to release fibres and making the fibres become airborne. Once it releases the fibres into the air, not only you but also other people may get exposed to the dangerous fibres and pose a health risk. Therefore, the safest way to handle it is by hiring a qualified assessor.

The samples are later needed to be analysed in a laboratory. The recommended laboratory for testing is a lab that is accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA). NATA can give details information regarding an accredited laboratory in your location. You can go to : www.nata.asn.au.

What Should I Do with the Asbestos?

If sadly, the test identified any fibrous product within your residential building, there are some actions that you can take.

If the material found in your home is fully intact, the best thing to do is to leave it as it is. The non-friable asbestos will not pose any risk if it is in good condition and left undisturbed.

However, if you plan a total removal due to a serious damage or safety reason, make sure you engage a qualified licensed removalist. The type of removalist you need to engage for the removal process might depend on the quantity and type of fibrous products needed to be removed.

  • Class A Licence – the person with this licence is allowed to remove all types of ACMs including friable asbestos.
  • Class B Licence – the person holding this licence is only allowed to remove non-friable asbestos or any dust or debris related to that removal.
  • Without a licence – the person without a licence is only authorised to remove up til 10 square meters (about the size of a standard bedroom wall) of non-friable asbestos.

 

Is DIY Possible for the Removal?

Yes, it is possible and permitted, but you have to take precautions. Removing fibrous material can be very hazardous and becomes complicated, so still, hiring a licensed removalist is the most recommended one.

It is important to be remembered that when you work with a material containing dangerous fibres, you have to be able to minimise the release of fibrous dust or small particles from the material. It is strongly recommended that you follow training before starting the removal work.

 

A Safe Removal

Remember to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) before working. Put on a class P1 or P2 disposable respirator, disposable coveralls and gloves, hat, eyewear and footwear.

When the products to be removed is asbestos cement materials:

DO’S DON’TS
  • Perform the work in a well-ventilated area and open air if is possible. However, if you work in the open air, avoid windy days.
  • Dampen the material thoroughly before and during the working process using water from spraying bottle. Keep the material dampened until it is packaged.
  • Use non-power tools such as hand saw, hand powered drill or guillotine.
  • To minimise the breakage on the sheeting, pull out the nail first.
  • Lower the sheeting carefully onto the ground.
  • Put polyethene sheeting with the thickness at least 0.2mm as the layer.
  • Minimise any breaking or cutting of cement products.
  • Remove and dispose of PPE but previously sealed the equipment in polyethene bags and labelled the bags as ‘Packaging and disposal of asbestos’.
  • Wash your hair, hand and fingernails and take a shower.
  • Use a high-pressure water sprayer to dampen the surface of the object.
  • Slide one sheet over the other to avoid abrasion of the surface of the material.
  • Use power tools as this may cause the fibres to become airborne.
  • Wipe or scrape the surface with a rough material to clean the surface.
  • Step on the corrugated asbestos cement roof sheeting to avoid any injury from falling.
  • Leave the cement products in the garden surrounding areas or in the place, which may cause the material to be crushed or broken.

 

Conclusion

Asbestos can still be found in almost all types of buildings in Australia. A DIY removal work is permitted as long as the material is smaller than 10 square meter in size. However, you need a license to remove friable asbestos! Also, working with asbestos material can be dangerous for you and the people around you. This is why, if you’re unsure that you can handle the removal alone, seek help from a professional removalist.

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Guidance on How to Remove Asbestos Safely

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