Asbestos in your home
What to Look For - is the material made with Asbestos?It is not easy to identify asbestos-containing materials in use. But it is safe to assume any material of an appropriate age was likely made with asbestos. To really know if a material contains asbestos, it is best to hire a professional to sample the material in question, who then sends collected samples to a laboratory certified by the Environmental Protection Agency for examination.
As of January 2008 you are now required to hold a NSW WorkCover licence to remove 10 square metres or more of bonded asbestos and any amount of friable (crumbles easily) asbestos.
Water blasting of asbestos-containing material is prohibited.
Therefore, if you are demolishing a shed or building lined with fibro and it is under 10 square metres you may carry out this work yourself (following WorkCover safety instructions). If the bonded asbestos sheeting is over 10 square metres, then you will need to have it removed by a licensed asbestos removal contractor.
Most people are exposed to very small amounts of asbestos as they go about their daily lives and do not develop asbestos-related health problems. Finding that your home or workplace is made from fibro products does not mean your health is at risk. Studies have shown that these products, if in sound condition and left undisturbed, are not a significant health risk. If the asbestos fibres remain firmly bound in cement, generally you do not need to remove the fibro or even coat it. Health problems can occur when people are unaware of the hazards of working with fibro and do not take appropriate precautions. The important point is to always work to avoid or minimise the release of dust or small particles from asbestos material. If you use commonsense and follow basis safety guidelines, working with fibro products should not be a problem.
The most accurate way to find out if your fibro contains asbestos is to have a licensed asbestos removal contractor inspect and test it. You can't tell by looking at it. If in doubt, assume asbestos is present and take the necessary precautions.
If the materials containing asbestos are in good condition and are intact (undamaged and undisturbed) they are perfectly safe. If left undisturbed asbestos does not pose a risk for people using the building. On the other hand, if the materials containing asbestos have been damaged by weathering, such as asbestos cement asbestos roof tiles, it is not safe because the fibres are no longer contained and could become airborne.
Please download and read the WorkCover NSW leaflet for Safely disposing of asbestos waste from your home by clicking on the below image.
Important information for home renovators and builders
Legal requirements for the safe handling, storage, transport and disposal of asbestos waste
Help and advice
For advice on the safe removal or working with asbestos or fibro:
• see www.nsw.gov.au/fibro
• contact the WorkCover NSW Assistance Service on 131 050
• email email@example.com
• visit the WorkCover NSW website at www.workcover.nsw.gov.au.
For further advice on storing, transporting and disposing of asbestos, call the Department of Environment and Climate Change Environment Line on 131 555 or your local council.
Hunter Tech Services also insist upon any home renovators reading the below.
You need to know the following things before every job involving the removal of materials containing asbestos;
- Current legislation says you MUST have a license to remove over 10 square metres of asbestos
- Contact WorkCover NSW before attempting to remove over 10 square metres
Steps to minimise the generation of dust
- Plan the job in advance.
- Consider employing a licensed company such as Hunter Tech Services to remove the asbestos.
- If you think the material contains asbestos treat it as asbestos until you know otherwise.
- You cannot tell if the material contain asbestos by looking at it, phone Hunter Tech Services on 0249 600 144 to get the material tested.
- Find out if removal is the best option – Other options to consider are sealing or encapsulation.
- Check with your local Council to see if you need council approval to remove Asbestos Contaminated Materials (ACM).
- Plan how best to dispose of the asbestos waste and arrange to do so promptly.
- Think of your family and neighbours. Warn people in the immediate area, including neighbours, and keep children and pets away from the area where you are working.
- Don’t handle or work with asbestos products if you are unsure of what you are doing. Call in the professionals. However if you must work with asbestos, while the following suggestions cannot guarantee your safety, they will help reduce your risk of exposure
Contact your local WorkCover office and familiarise your self with the correct PPE (Personnel Protective Equipment) required for the task.
DO NOT brake asbestos sheeting as one brake can liberate tens of thousands of microscopic fibres.
- Always use a mask approved to Australian Standard AS 1715 to protect against asbestos and disposable coveralls. These are generally available from hardware suppliers. Non-Australian Standards certified masks should not be used where asbestos is present.
- Remove soft furnishings such as curtains and linen from the work area.
- Always thoroughly wet the material you are working with to reduce dust and keep damp at all times.
- Maintain the ACM, keeping it damp at all times.
- Use only hand tools rather than power tools.
- Shut down heating and cooling systems to the area to minimize the spread of released fibres.
- Install air locks to stop air movement to adjoining rooms
- Lay drop sheets over floor and ground around the area where work is to proceed.
- Where possible work outside or in areas with ample ventilation. If you can, open the window where you are working indoors.
- Take any fibro sheets off whole (again, do not use power tools as this may create dust movement).
- Seal sheets in construction grade plastic. This should be 200 microns thick. (Heavy builders plastic)
- Don’t allow any family members or other people near where you are working.
- When you have finished work put the disposable overalls into a rubbish bag and seal it. Do this before you remove your mask. Don't allow anyone else to touch the overalls. Shower thoroughly immediately after finishing work.
- Never sweep up. Always use a vacuum cleaner with a WorkCover approved HEPA (Highly Efficient Particulate Air) Filter, which has an internal sealed and removable bag.
- Dispose of all ACM in a labeled Asbestos Bag at an approved Asbestos Licensed Waste Disposal Centre. If you require labeled Asbestos Bags for the safe disposal of ACM, contact HTS on 0249 600 144.
Before you commence any home renovations with asbestos materials present you will need to contact your local council. Please find some helpful links and contact details for local city councils below.
Cessnock City Council: 4993 4100
Lake Macquarie City Council: 4921 0333
Maitland City Council: 4934 9700
Newcastle City Council: 4974 2525
Never put asbestos in your garbage bin or take it to the tip.
Dispose of asbestos waste promptly to a landfill that can lawfully accept it. Failure to do so can devalue your property, put your health and your family’s health at risk, and expose you to hefty fines and clean-up costs. It is illegal to dispose of asbestos waste in domestic garbage bins. It is also illegal to recycle, re-use, or illegally dump asbestos products.
The Department of Environment and Climate Change NSW and councils can issue hefty fines for disposing of asbestos waste illegally.
Don’t risk a $5000 fine or prosecution, with penalties up to $1 million.
- Visit www.environment.nsw.gov.au/waste/asbestos for a list of licensed landfills that accept asbestos waste from the public.
- Most landfills will not accept asbestos without prior booking or notification. Always contact the landfill beforehand to find out when asbestos waste is accepted and any requirements for delivering asbestos to the landfill.
- When delivering your waste to the landfill, ensure that you inform the landfill operator that the waste contains asbestos.
- Keep copies of receipts from landfills where asbestos has been taken. If you hire a company to dispose of asbestos, ask for copies of disposal receipts. Councils may require you to produce these receipts as proof of proper disposal.
- Should the asbestos be in powder form or can be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to powder by hand pressure when dry, then an asbestos removal contractor with an AS1 Licence such as Hunter Tech Services is required for its removal.
- WorkCover NSW has a guideline on asbestos removal. Contact the WorkCover Assistance Service on 13 10 50 for a copy or download a copy of the publication here.
Cessnock City Council: phone the Cessnock Waste and Reuse Centre on 4993 4333. Download the Cessnock City Council guidelines for dumping Asbestos here.
Lake Macquarie City Council: The Awaba Waste Management Facility
Maitland City Council: 4934 1888
Newcastle City Council: Summerhill Waste Management Centre must be contacted before asbestos products are taken there for the protection of workers. Call 02 4985 6600 for more information. For more information on disposal of asbestos products please visit the Newcastle City Council's problem wastes page. You can also find information about Summerhill's asbestos acceptance conditions and asbestos soil conditions here.
No. If your mate worked with asbestos without protection, your mate has an increased his risk of developing an asbestos related disease in the future. Unlike a cold, you will not develop symptoms of an asbestos related disease until many years after initial exposure. Remember there is no cure for asbestos related diseases. Preventing exposure is the only management available.
No. World Health Organisation (WHO) states there is no established safe level of exposure to asbestos.