By Greg Rowell
In this article, I wanted to discuss the topic of asbestos. It is in most houses, and can only be seen under a microscope.
Do you have it, and how would you know?
Naturally occurring asbestos
I am trained in asbestos removal, and have been working around asbestos for many years. While there are a few guides about asbestos and products that contain asbestos, there is only one way of determining if your home has asbestos in it…
Testing, testing, testing!
Sadly, the only way that you can tell if a building material has asbestos in it, is to test for it.
There are many different types of building materials that contain asbestos. The most common one is the commonly known “fibro” product. This product is a compressed cement sheet that had asbestos added to it. Asbestos content could be as high as 15%.
But there are many other sources of asbestos.
Vinyl tiles and their adhesives, sarking, cement pipes, electrical switchboards, sealants, fences, pipe insulation, loose fill insulation (rare) and many many more materials.
Sadly, in recent years, asbestos has been found in products that have been imported from China, and America consider 3% asbestos content as safe (Australia has a nil content policy). So even new products coming into Australia, could still have asbestos in it – hence the ongoing risk to trades people and home owners.
A good source of information on asbestos begins at: https://asbestosawareness.com.au/
What should you do if you am planning work on your house?
If you are planning on having any building work done to your home, you might need to check if you home could have asbestos in it.
Trades people should know, but often they are misinformed or rely on old information for guidance. Sometimes they are even guided by anecdotal evidence.
Anecdotal evidence is NOT acceptable for assessment purposes of asbestos content.
Tapping, knocking, hitting, checking the dimples on the back, or breaking open fibro (of any age) are all unacceptable and unreliable test methods. These methods rely on anecdotal evidence and are unsafe methods to use for assessment.
Should a trades person tell you this is a good way to check – tell them to stop! This could expose your family to asbestos fibres.
You should speak to WorkCover (NSW) for further information.
The general rule is:
- If your home was built before 1984, your home will have asbestos somewhere in it.
- If your home was built between 1984 and 2000, you home is likely to have asbestos in it.
- After 2000 you home is unlikely to have asbestos in it, but it is still possible.
If you have pipes that have a strange lagging covering it, you should contact an asbestos assessor for immediate assistance. This could be friable asbestos (a non-bonded material), and is extremely hazardous.
Only specialised asbestos removalists are legally allowed to touch this material (a plumber should never touch it during pipe repairs).
How do I know if my contractor knows what they are doing?
If your home falls within the above dates for possible asbestos content, ask your contractor how they will manage any work around the material (usually fibro).
If they tell you that your material doesn’t contain asbestos, but they haven’t tested for it, be concerned. I would suggest that they don’t know what they are talking about and if you choose to use them, you should be very careful around their activities.
If you are concerned about your contractor’s activities, phone WorkCover (NSW) for immediate assistance.
There are very significant fines for illegal work with asbestos or possible asbestos containing material.
Remember the above statement.
The ONLY way that you can tell if a product has asbestos in it, is by testing in a laboratory.
No trades person can see asbestos without a microscope.
All tradespeople are required to treat potential asbestos material as if it were asbestos – this means taking specific precautions.
The way that “I” operate around asbestos.
I am trained in asbestos removal
– but –
I am NOT a licensed asbestos removalist.
I am legally limited to removing small quantities of bonded asbestos products (largely fibro type products), or working with or around asbestos containing material during the course of my duties.
My legal responsibility as a contractor is to operate to the highest possible safety standard.
I personally consider all fibro products in houses built before 2000, to possibly contain asbestos. If I am being asked to carry out significant work on a material that could contain asbestos, I will take samples and test for it before work begins.
This is for the protection of myself, and my client.
I charge a minimum of $120 per sample, with a written report submitted to the client usually within one week, often within 48 hours.
If the material is determined to contain asbestos, I will discuss options with my client, before a decision is made on what type of work that I am willing to carry out (or legally able to carry out).
If large amounts of work is to be required on confirmed asbestos containing material, an asbestos consultant may need to be employed to manage this risk or a licensed asbestos removalist might need to be engaged.
If there is only going to be a minimum amount of disturbance to asbestos containing material, and there is no other option, I will use proper procedures to undertake the work, with appropriate remediation carried out following work done.
All tradespeople are required by law to do this. If your trades person is not prepared to do this, makes excuses, or tells you that it isn’t necessary, they are possibly breaking the law and you should consider phoning WorkCover (NSW).
Due to asbestos being a highly hazardous substance, it is tightly controlled. There are significant costs associated with the management and disposal of it. This can range in price, but unfortunately it is a mandatory cost imposed on all clients when asbestos is involved.
As an example:
The cost to drill 1 hole through asbestos fibro to fit a conduit, could be more than $150.00 just to cover safety equipment and the disposal of the waste material.
Asbestos is a very complicated material. It can cause serious illness, and illness may not become apparent until 40 years after exposure.
My motto is:
If in doubt, find out!
I hope this provides some guidance to clients, and that it helps with the selection of trades people on your next project.
Or the way in which jobs are done.
Bye for now,
#asbestos #acm #asbestosawareness #fibro #fcsheet