Current medical as well as scientific evidence is in agreement that simply working or living in a building that has asbestos doesn’t really pose a danger so long as the asbestos is not damaged and remains in good condition.
It is only when the material containing asbestos gets disturbed or when you work with it that the harmful fibres get released. It is through these airborne asbestos fibres that chances of getting asbestos related diseases are increased.
Who is at Most Risk?
The people who stand at greatest danger of contracting and developing ailments associated with asbestos are those who are exposed frequently. This includes those who on a regular basis undertake renovations, repairs, and other asbestos materials work that have the potential of releasing asbestos fibres into the open air.
It must however be noted that asbestos only becomes a health risk when the asbestos fibres are inhaled into your lungs. Much of the fibres will naturally be removed by your natural body defences from your lungs although some fibres may remain.
The risk increases in relation to the amount of fibres inhaled, the frequency and duration of exposure. Diseases related to asbestos usually will take a long period to develop, sometimes 15-20 years.
Asbestos Removal, Sydney Wide: Legal Requirements
Removing materials containing asbestos (ACMs) has different requirements under diverse Australian laws. The removal of the material ought to be carried out with utmost care to avoid releasing of dangerous fibres into the open air.
- WHS Regulations under the Work Health and Safety Act lays down the necessary competency and training requirements for anybody dealing with removal of asbestos. This includes asbestos removal workers, assessors and supervisors.
- As a private home renovator wishing to carry out some Do-It-Yourself removal in an area that exceeds 10 square metres of bonded asbestos containing materials (ACM), you have to get a certificate from the Department of Health.
- For non-friable ACM in areas measuring 10 sq metres or below, a certificate is not required. You will however, still be required to adhere to the laid down WHS procedures to minimize chances of asbestos fibres getting airborne.
Removing Asbestos Material
Certain activities are prohibited when it comes to the removal and renovation of friable asbestos. This is due to the fact of the added risk of exposing self, family, and neighbours to the harmful asbestos fibres.
The removal of friable asbestos must be done:
- By the holder of a government ‘A’ class certificate.
- In compliance with the requirements for asbestos-containing materials (ACM) removal as per the guidelines in the Code of Practice 2011 on “How to Safely Remove Asbestos.”
Also considered to be friable asbestos are several felt carpet underlay. This should only be professionally removed by an asbestos-containing materials licensed removalist who has an ‘A’ class removal licence.
The removal work site also ought to be thoroughly cleaned of all present dust in such a manner that it will not contribute to additional fibres dispersal. Access to the removal site must be highly restricted to only those that are actively engaged in the ongoing work, and they too must be wearing all the required Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).