Demolitions, Renovations, Building Repair and Asbestos
If you are thinking about renovating, you must be aware of asbestos. It is important for home owners and renovators to be aware of how to safely manage asbestos in and around the home.
Inhaling asbestos fibres is a health risk. Asbestos is a carcinogen, known to cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.
Information on how to safely work with asbestos
- Asbestos Awareness.com.au
- WorkCover NSW Working With Asbestos Guide (pdf)
- WorkCover NSW Asbestos Fact Sheet (pdf)
- WorkCover NSW Property Hazards Following a Flood/Storm Damage (pdf)
- Asbestos Cleanup after an Emergency or Incident (pdf)
Types of asbestos
Friable asbestos means any material that contains asbestos and is in the form of a powder or can be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to powder by hand pressure when dry.
Non-friable (bonded) asbestos means any material that contains asbestos (other than friable asbestos material).
In the past asbestos was used in around 3,000 products manufactured worldwide, most commonly in the construction, car manufacturing and textile industries.
Perhaps the most commonly used asbestos product in Australia from the 1940's until the 1980's was 'fibro' a non-friable (bonded) asbestos product containing around 15% asbestos. Fibro was widely used as wall and ceiling sheeting in houses and other structures because of its strength and resistance to heat and salt air. It has even been used in brick structures under the eaves and as internal linings especially in bathrooms and laundries. Whilst manufacture ceased in the 1980's, use of fibro was not outlawed until 2004.
In addition to fibro sheeting, non-friable (bonded) asbestos was used in roofing and as fencing panels (supersix), guttering, pipes, floor and ceiling tiles. Asbestos was also used as an insulation material, as a fire retardant, in gaskets, in brake linings and as a filtering material. The use of asbestos has gradually been phased out with all forms of asbestos use discontinued in late 2003.
If in good condition, fibro presents minimal risk when left undisturbed. Broken, badly weathered or damaged non-friable (bonded) asbestos material may release fibres that present a risk to health and should be removed, or sealed so as to prevent release of asbestos fibre.
Home renovators need to be particularly aware of this material. When cut drilled or broken it can present the risks to health mentioned above, especially if working in a confined space. Others may be at risk when cleaning up, and if not cleaned up it may be a danger.
Material containing asbestos should never by cleaned using a high-pressure water cleaner.
The only way to confirm whether a material contains asbestos is to have it analysed by one of the National Association of Testing Laboratories (NATA) laboratories accredited for this type of testing.
It is highly advisable before undertaking major renovation to buildings constructed before 2004 to obtain an asbestos inspection by a person competent in the identification and assessment of asbestos (such as an Occupational Hygienist).
Asbestos Removal and Disposal
Since 1 January 2008 an asbestos removal licence has been required in NSW to commercially remove (including disturb or repair) more than 10m2 of bonded asbestos material. Licencing for asbestos removalists is regulated and administered in NSW by WorkCover NSW and people using contractors should request to sight the current licence before employing a contractor.
Two types of licences designated A and B are issued. Class A licence holders can carry out work which involves both friable and non-friable (bonded) asbestos. Class B licence holders can work with non-friable asbestos only.
Removal of 10m2 or less of non-friable (bonded) asbestos may be undertaken without a licence, however given the risks involved, Council encourages residents to consider engaging a licenced asbestos removal contractor.
Products containing asbestos can only be disposed of at a waste facility licenced to accept these materials. Ballina Shire's Waste Management Facility at Southern Cross Drive is not currently able to receive this type of waste. The nearest authorized facility is at Lismore. Arrangements may be made through Lismore City Council for disposal at its Wyrallah Road Waste facility. Specific requirements also apply to its transportation.
Since January 2010, demolition work involves establishing whether asbestos is present. If more than 10m2 is found, there may be a need for a Development Approval from Council or a Complying Development Certificate. If in doubt, ask.
Council officers are authorised under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act, the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and other legislation to enforce the provisions of the legislation where work is done other than in accordance with an approval or where there has been a specific breach of the legislation. Substantial penalties can apply.
Importantly, if you suspect you have asbestos in your home ...
Don't cut it! Don't drill it! Don't drop it! Don't sand it! Don't saw it! Don't scrape it! Don't scrub it! Don't dismantle it! Don't tip it! Don't waterblast it! Don't demolish it!
and whatever you do... Don't dump it!
Burnt or derelict buildings that contain asbestos
Useful information is available on the EPA website specifically the document: