Asbestos has been mined and used in construction for over 100 years. From the very beginning, miners were significantly affected by exposure, with the first asbestos-related death being documented in 1906. However, it continued to be used in construction in Australia well into the 1980s. Meaning that despite it now being banned, there is still a significant amount of it hidden in our homes and workplaces.
The goal of the Australian governments and Queensland’s legislation regarding its removal is to ensure that as much of it as possible can now be located and disposed of safely. Should renovations or demolition be occurring in the affected premises, either commercial or residential, professional experts must be called to assess and plan its removal.
What Is Asbestos?
The naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral known as asbestos was used in many building materials right up until 1990. Asbestos is an excellent electrical insulator and highly fire-resistant factors which made it a popular choice of construction material for many years.
Asbestos was used for and most commonly found in fibro sheeting used to line walls and ceilings, in fencing panels, drainage and flue pipes, roof shingles, guttering and as the backing of some floor materials.
Asbestos exposure can occur at home, in your office or the general community and its presence is more prevalent in modern buildings than you’d think. However, as the fibres are only dangerous when disturbed there is no need to panic. The most critical time to arrange removal and avoid exposure is before renovating or undertaking industrial projects.
The Health Risks of Asbestos Removal
Renovations to your home without first disposing of any asbestos-containing materials could put yourself and your loved ones in harm’s way. When the fibres of asbestos become airborne they are easily breathed in – you may not even realise it is happening. These fibres have been proven and shown to be incredibly harmful to human health. They have been linked with chronic respiratory issues and terminal illnesses such as cancer.
These risks of exposure are multiplied when the source is a work site or other high-traffic area. Not only does the irresponsible handling of asbestos endanger workers, but it could also endanger the customers of a commercial building. So, without competent inspection for the presence of asbestos on your property, the consequences of renovation or demolition are far too high to risk.
When Do I Need Asbestos Removals Services?
Asbestos is to be removed, as far as reasonably practicable, before any demolition can occur. This applies to both new builds and renovations. Sections 452 and 453 of the WHS Regulation outline the requirements of removing asbestos before demolition works can take place. There are very few acceptable reasons for asbestos not to be removed prior .to work commencing
When a building being demolished contains asbestos, it is usually required to follow the demolition up with soil scraping and excavation works. This is to ensure that the asbestos has been completely removed before new works begin. Depending on your circumstances, the soil may need to be scraped back 30 – 50mm.
Identification of asbestos is best done by a professional, however, there are some guidelines that can help you minimise risk and know when to book an inspection. Generally, the rule of thumb for determining if you may have asbestos in your home is:
- If your house was built before the mid-1980s it is highly likely to contain asbestos materials
- f your house was built between the mid-1980s and 1990, there is likely to be some asbestos-containing materials
- If your house was built after 1990, it is unlikely to contain asbestos materials, however, this is not certain so proceed with caution and arrange an inspection.
- If your house was built after 2003, you are likely to be safe from asbestos materials in your home.
If at any stage you are unsure if there is asbestos in your home and you have concerns it is best to book an inspection and avoid the risk of exposure.
Why You Should Never Remove Asbestos Yourself
Asbestos removal can be extremely dangerous if done without proper training and certification. During the disturbance of asbestos-containing products, tiny fibres released in the air may reach the lungs through inhalation. This is why you should never take the risk of DIY removal because the harmful effects outweigh any perceived benefits of doing it yourself.
No matter how thoroughly you research, only licensed professionals to have the proper licensing, training and equipment to remove it safely and in accordance with state laws.
Some of the dangers of DIY asbestos removal are:
Improper Handling of Asbestos Material
The biggest danger of attempting to remove asbestos yourself is the risk of exposure through improper handling of the material. You cannot use standard tools for its removal and the use of power tools like cutting discs, compressed air, and high-pressure hoses may disturb the material and cause the release of asbestos fibres in the air. Therefore, the experts advise hiring asbestos removal professionals. They are properly trained and equipped to handle this dangerous material.
Lack of Awareness of Law and the Dangers of Asbestos
DIY asbestos removal may see you violate the laws for asbestos removal. In Queensland, you may need to have permission from your local council and need to follow all regulations from the State Government and Worksafe Queensland. It is important to mention that you cannot throw asbestos material in regular waste. Instead, it needs to be properly packaged and thrown at an approved facility – with advance notice and approval to do so.
Failure to Consult Your Neighbours
Most people do not realise that under the Australian Health Act, you are required to consult your neighbours before you remove any asbestos from your home. If your neighbours have concerns about what you are doing, they can call Worksafe QLD and the Office of Industrial Relations who can stop your removal work. You can also be issued a fine for the failure to undertake the required safety measures for asbestos removal and not using the required licensed contractors.
In short, hiring professionals saves you time, trouble and ensures you avoid hefty fines for improper handling and disposal of asbestos.
I’ve Discovered Asbestos That Needs Removing, What Happens Next?
You can organise the safe removal of asbestos by following these steps:
1. Contact Your Regional Asbestos Program
First and foremost, contact the relevant authorities. In Queensland, there are strict laws regarding the removal and disposal of asbestos. You are usually required to obtain permission from your local council for the removal and dumping of asbestos materials. It is best to check with the authorities before beginning any work to ensure you remain compliant.
2. Seek Accredited Inspectors and Contractors
After gaining any required permissions, you should seek accredited inspectors or asbestos removalists to get the material checked to confirm the presence of asbestos. An expert can tell you how much of the material there is and what needs to be removed before you can commence any renovations or demolition work.
Always keep in mind the experience of the contractors, check their licensing and their qualifications to ensure they can remove the asbestos safely and legally. In Queensland, there are two licenses that cover the removal of asbestos, both covering different aspects. We will go into these licenses in further detail later.
How Is Asbestos Safely Removed?
After air vacuuming and cleaning up the worksite, industrial hygienist firms come for the final inspection to ensure that all asbestos has been removed. They also take air samples for further testing and ensure compliance with local, state, and federal laws. The barriers around the work area and all filtration equipment should remain in place until the final inspection occurs.
Asbestos Removal LicensingThe essential steps in the process of asbestos removal are detailed and carefully regulated. During the removal you should expect:
The Creation And Communication Of A Work Plan
A professional asbestos removal process starts with your contractor communicating their work plan. Usually, your asbestos removal contractor will outline this plan that includes the preparation and clean up process you will have to follow. It is important to mention that this workout plan should abide by all local, state, and federal laws – and there is no getting around these laws.
Setting Up Of The Work Area With Proper Boundaries
After finalising the plan, the asbestos removal contractor will mark the area and inform the residents within the home to leave the place until the asbestos removal work completes. Part of the preparation is also informinbg neighbours that asbestos removal will be taking place.
They will ensure sealing air ducts in the work area and disaling any air conditioning or heating systems. The contractor will also cover the remaining parts with thick plastic sheets where needed.
Removal Of The Asbestos Material
Now, it’s time to remove asbestos material. Generally, asbestos contractors use hand tools and wet methods to minimise the spread of this dangerous substance. Workers on the site will be wearing protective clothing and respirators, as well as any other PPE that’s been identified as essential.
All removed material will be sealed in plastic bags and taken to the relevant asbestos disposal area. A disposal permit from the relevant authorities will have already been obtained by your contractor nominating a place or landfill that accepts it as waste.
Minimising the exposure to airborne asbestos fibres is another preparatory step before starting the removal process. This includes keeping the asbestos-containing material wet all the time and avoiding tearing and throwing it.
For increased safety, asbestos removal contractors use special high-efficiency particulate air vacuuming (HEPA) to minimise the dispersion of asbestos fibres at the workplace or home.
Wondering how to choose an asbestos removal specialist? It mostly comes down to licensing, your contractor needs to be able to show proof of the relevant licensing. You should never engage a contractor who is unwilling or unable to provide this proof.
Queensland Asbestos Removal Regulations And Licensing
The Queensland Government takes the regulations and licensing behind asbestos removal quite seriously. You can review the Queensland government’s requirements for removing asbestos from a home or business in detail here.
The two types of asbestos removal licenses in Queensland are Class A and a Class B license. Both relate to the two types of asbestos – friable and non-friable. Friable asbestos is in powder form or can be turned into powder by being crumbled or crushed in your hand. Non-friable asbestos is often in cement sheeting, or fibro, and can’t be crumbled by hand.
Class A License
The Class A license allows license holders to remove any amount of friable asbestos. The removal must be directly supervised by a nominated supervisor. Class A license holders can also carry out the removal of asbestos under the Class B license. Essentially hiring a business with a Class A license is your best bet for any asbestos in your home or office.
Class B License
A Class B license allows for the removal of more than 10 square metres of non-friable asbestos as well as contaminated debris and dust that goes with the removal of this product. A business with a Class B license cannot undertake any work associated with a Class A license.
Of course in addition to checking they are licensed, you should choose a company that you feel comfortable with. Great contractors are happy to communicate with you about all aspects of the job and take your safety and protection of property seriously.
When it comes to dealing with asbestos in your family home or business, you need the licensed professionals you can trust from Icon Asbestos Removals. We possess the targeted training and experience required to safely remove any asbestos materials while looking after your property. Our teams are skilled at knowing how to remove ceiling, wall, roof and fence asbestos without damaging the core structure of your home and ensuring the site is left safe at the close of the job.
Icon Asbestos Removal is a leader in asbestos removal in Brisbane homes. No matter where the asbestos is located in your property, our team can safely remove it in accordance with the law. Our goal is to restore the safety of your home during renovations or help you properly prepare for a new build through our professional asbestos removal services.
For exceptional care, advice and asbestos removal you can trust, contact Icon Asbestos Removals today on 07 3053 3453.