ASBESTOS – IMPORTANT FACTS and INFORMATION YOU SHOULD KNOW!
Good afternoon, Teams
It is without a doubt that Asbestos is a serious risk to everyone’s safety. This Safety Alert is to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos and clarify how AJG Australia’s Internal Trades and External Contractors are identifying and removing potential hazards on site.
Asbestos can be managed safely
ACM (Asbestos Containing Material) can be easily confused with plaster board. When in good condition and in place, it is difficult to visually distinguish between ACM and other types of fibro sheeting.
Asbestos is found in many parts of homes built before 1990, including:
- ceilings and internal walls
- flue and water pipes
- behind tiles
- flooring underlay.
It is extremely important that all AJG Australia Contractors have a process in place that all employees are trained in. AJG Australia’s contractors need to be able to identify & assess potential hazards prior to commencing work on each site. Furthermore, all contractors should be proficient in what to do if you suspect there is a potential hazard, such as asbestos on site.
FAs a Contractor and under WHS Regulation, you have responsibilities to protect anyone who works with asbestos. ANY cutting of asbestos sheeting is PROHIBITED as it turns bonded asbestos into an uncontrollable friable substance which is a notifiable incident to SafeWork NSW.
Below is an extract from the WHS Regulation Part 8.5, Division 3:
“Prohibited Tools and Equipment
A Person/s Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) or their workers must not use high-pressure water sprays or compressed air on asbestos or ACM unless for fire fighting or fire protection purposes.
Other tools and equipment that generate dust such as high-speed abrasive power and pneumatic tools (e.g., angle grinders, sanders, saws, and high-speed drills) and brooms and brushes (unless brushes are used for sealing) must also not be used on asbestos, unless the use of equipment is controlled. This means the equipment is enclosed when used or the equipment is designed or used in a way that captures or suppresses airborne asbestos fibres”
After the storm..
How do I remove asbestos immediately after a flood or storm?
Using a licensed asbestos removalist is the best way to remove asbestos, but this may not be possible following a flood or storm.
A licensed asbestos removalist knows how to (and is qualified to) safely remove and dispose of asbestos, then decontaminate the property to minimise health risks (<- Click here to learn about health risks and diseases related to asbestos contamination).
If you are not using a licensed removalist, you can remove asbestos on the property safely by doing the following steps:
- Obtain 2 thick plastic bags, disposable plastic gloves or washing up gloves
- Obtain a P2 face mask – from the hardware store. Masks used for COVID-19 safety won’t protect you
- Put on the mask and gloves before starting the clean-up
- Pick up (don’t sweep) the pieces of asbestos and place in plastic bag
- When finished remove gloves and face mask and place in plastic bag
- Knot the top of the plastic bag and then place the knotted plastic bag into the second empty plastic bag and then knot the top
- Clearly label the bag as asbestos
- Wash and clean hands thoroughly with soap and water
- Keep asbestos waste separated from other waste you are removing
- Follow advice from the local emergency services or council on where to put this separated waste
- DO NOT put asbestos waste in red-lid bins or skip bins that aren’t meant for asbestos waste.
How do I clean asbestos materials after a storm or flood?
Take care when cleaning the surface of asbestos materials to avoid damage and the release of asbestos fibres.
When cleaning asbestos materials:
- Clean walls and other surfaces containing asbestos materials using domestic hoses or by hand. Use soapy water with a cloth, sponge, light scrubbing device such as a soft brush or broom
- Regularly check the surface of the material you are cleaning to ensure it is not being damaged. If damage is occurring, clean more gently
- Don’t clean asbestos roofs and other asbestos materials with high pressure water cleaners or water blasters, this releases fibres into a large area putting you and others at risk.
Can I cut asbestos that has been damaged?
The short answer is NO. You can, however, remove asbestos materials that are already broken and dislodged. Do not cut or break asbestos materials, this may release fibres that you and others can breathe in. Always use the correct personal protective equipment when working with asbestos.
How do I remove asbestos if I am a tradesperson or paid handyperson?
If you find asbestos on a job site, you must comply with WHS laws (<- Click here to learn more about the aforementioned WHS Laws) .
This means that without a license:
- you can remove up to 10m2 of non-friable asbestos.
- You cannot remove any amount of friable asbestos on a job site.
- Use a licensed asbestos removalist for any amount of friable asbestos.
- There is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos, so your safety, planning and processes are critical.
What kind of PPE should I wear when removing asbestos?
To protect your health, it is important to wear the right personal protective equipment to prevent the spread of asbestos fibres and protect everyone’s health.
The following PPE is mandatory whilst removing asbestos – in the following order:
- Disposable coveralls. These should include a hood and elasticised cuffs. Choose the next size up to reduce the risk of tearing.
- Shoes. Don’t wear shoes with laces as they are hard to decontaminate. Gumboots are safer as they can be wiped down.
- Disposable shoe covers. These should be secure and cover the entire shoe. The soles must be non-slip.
- Disposable gloves. Tuck gloves under the elasticised cuffs. If the cuffs are loose, tape them down to create a seal.
- Face mask. Don’t use a standard dust mask. Always use a P2 rated particulate face mask. It should fit well and cover half your face. You must be clean shaven for the mask to seal properly.
- Protective eyewear. Wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from dust.
Working with asbestos
Asbestos safety requires careful planning (<- Click here to learn how to effectively and safely plan to remove asbestos).
Before working with asbestos, have the right equipment ready to go with your PPE. You will need:
- 200-micron thick plastic drop sheets
- duct tape
- wet wipes or disposable cloths
- bucket of water
- water sprayer (hose or bottle with misting attachment)
- non-electrical tools
- 200-micron thick asbestos waste plastic bags
- Warning signage
- barriers to exclude others from the area
- bin or designated waste storage area.
Do not reuse disposable items – treat them as asbestos waste. Clean and decontaminate shoes, mask, eyewear, and decontaminate the area you’ve been working in.
Before decontaminating the asbestos removal work area
- wet wipes or rags
- plastic or plastic waste bags at least 200 microns thick
- duct tape
- a pen.
- Clearly label the asbestos waste bags before you start the decontamination. The label should read: DANGER: ASBESTOS WASTE. (You can find 200-micron thick plastic where you get your PPE from)
Remove dust in the work area
- Use a wet wipe or rag to clean any dust or debris on the drop sheet.
- Fold rags to use a clean surface, but don’t scrunch them.
- Use a new wet wipe or rag to remove dust from your disposable coveralls and any other PPE and tools used during removal.
- Don’t rinse rags and re-use them. Once they have been used, throw them away.
Remove the drop sheets
- Wrap plastic drop sheets by folding each sheet in on itself so no asbestos is on the outside.
- Wrap the wet wipes or rags used for the first part of the decontamination in the drop sheet.
- Seal the wrapped plastic sheets with duct tape and put into a labelled asbestos waste bag.
Remove your PPE
Keep your face mask on while you remove the rest of your PPE.
After finishing the work, you need to remove your PPE carefully and in the right order (<- Click here to learn how to remove your PPE carefully and in the right order) or see steps below:
- Remove coveralls by rolling inside out from the top down. Put your coveralls in a labelled asbestos waste bag or plastic drop sheet.
- Remove your shoe covers and clean your gumboots with a wet wipe. Place shoe covers and wet wipes in the waste bag.
- Remove your face mask and put it in the waste bag.
- Use a wet wipe or wet rag to wipe down the outside of the asbestos waste bags (or drop sheets). Put the wet wipes you used inside the bag.
- Seal the waste bag or drop sheets securely with duct tape and label any waste as DANGER: ASBESTOS WASTE.
- Wash your hands, under your nails and face thoroughly with soapy water.
Disposing of PPE and asbestos waste
After working with asbestos, your disposable PPE is contaminated and becomes asbestos waste.
You can safely dispose of your PPE and asbestos waste at a landfill licenced to accept asbestos in NSW or QLD.
You must take asbestos waste to a landfill that’s licensed to accept it. Contact the landfill depot before you go, to check their procedures.
Remember – No exposure to Asbestos is safe, and if you THINK it’s Asbestos, treat it as if IT IS Asbestos.
Please be asbestos ready and please stay safe.
AJG Australia Team