Asbestos could be lurking in any home built or renovated before 1987. Back in the day, us Aussies were among the largest consumers of asbestos-containing materials in the world. Nowadays asbestos remains in one in every three homes! So while impatient people like myself may want to knock down walls and think later, in this occasion preparation is key. So before you start hammering, tick off the below checklist and be safe this National Asbestos Awareness Month.
1. If you’re not sure if asbestos is in your home, have it inspected by a licensed asbestos removalist or a licensed asbestos assessor.
2. If asbestos is disturbed during renovations or maintenance your health and the health of your family could be at risk.
3. DIY is not recommended where asbestos is present.
4. Dealing with asbestos is important and serious, but it’s not overwhelming – it is manageable!
5. Products made from asbestos cement include: fibro sheeting (flat and corrugated); water, drainage and flue pipes; roofing shingles; guttering; and floor and wall coverings. It could be anywhere!
6. If you find asbestos in your home don’t cut it, drill it, drop it, sand it, saw it, scrape it, scrub it, dismantle it, tip it, water blast it or demolish it! And whatever you do… don’t dump it.
7. If left undisturbed in a good, stable condition, asbestos-containing materials are unlikely to release dangerous fibres and pose a health risk. Generally you don’t need to remove the asbestos. Paint it and leave it alone, but remember to check it occasionally for any signs of wear and tear.
8. There are legal requirements regarding asbestos management, its removal and disposal.
9. While some may want to remove small amounts of asbestos themselves, the safest way to manage its removal is to hire a licensed asbestos removalist. They are equipped to protect you and your family from the dangers of asbestos dust and fibres.
10. Where asbestos fibres are friable (loose and not bonded into building materials), only licensed friable asbestos removalists are allowed to remove it.
11. Professional removal of asbestos is affordable. You can’t afford not to use a professional!
12. If you must work with material that may contain asbestos, protect yourself by following the legal and safety requirements to minimise the release of dust or small particles.
13. There are a number of safety precautions you will need to take such as wearing specific protective clothing, the correct mask or breathing apparatus and ensuring you dispose of it legally.
14. Never use power tools on asbestos materials as they will make asbestos fibres airborne. Such tools are electric drills, angle grinders, circular saws and electric sanders. Also never use high pressure water blasters or compressed air.
15. Don’t play renovation roulette. Think smart and think safe because it’s not worth the risk!
Australia’s national Asbestos Awareness Month campaign is a world-leading awareness and education campaign in the prevention of asbestos-related diseases.