How to Respond if You Suspect Asbestos is Present on a Work Site

Posted on: 29 August 2016

Asbestos is one of Australia's number one occupational risks. Even though measures have been taken to drastically limit industrial exposure to asbestos fibres, over 550 people die every year in Australia from mesothelioma, a form of cancer that is overwhelmingly associated with asbestos exposure. Even a few fibres inhaled 40 years ago are thought to raise the risk of developing cancer later in life, so whenever construction projects encounter materials containing asbestos, they always have to take disposal seriously.

If you are carrying out major DIY work on your home or a new property and it hasn't been radically altered for a couple of decades, there's a good chance you will encounter asbestos. Here's what to do if you suspect that to be the case and how to make sure you and your contractors are protected from harm.

Know Where Asbestos Could be Hiding

The first thing to note is that it isn't always easy to identify asbestos. Most people are familiar with the grey, stone-like panels that line sheds and ceilings in some older buildings. However, asbestos could be in your vinyl floor tiles, drainage pipes and even your toilet seat. The classic image of asbestos is actually known as AIB, but it can also be formed into ropes ton insulate pipes or incorporated into composite materials that look very different.

Check Drywalls for Asbestos

One place that commonly harbours asbestos is drywalling. Often, these walls will sound muffled, a little like a drum when you strike them. This may indicate the presence of asbestos, as concrete tends to make a firmer, sharper sound. A simple hammer tap can give a good idea of whether you have a problem.

Put Away Your Power Tools and Secure the Area

If you do suspect that asbestos is present, unplug any power tools you are using. Power tools create much more dust in a shorter time, causing irreversible lung damage before you have time to respond. If you need to do any exploratory work, wear a dust mask and use a standard chisel. Mark off the area as well, and ensure that unauthorised people cannot gain access.

Call in Technicians to Formulate a Plan

When the area is secure, don't start ripping out panels by yourself. Asbestos removal is a skilled occupation requiring appropriate licenses, and you can do yourself irreparable harm by doing it incorrectly. Instead, bring in asbestos disposal experts to test the material. It may not be asbestos, in which case you can continue. But if it is, you'll need to let the experts do their work without disruption.

Asbestos removal and disposal is an inconvenience for contractors and DIY lovers, but it takes very little time and leaves the affected property much safer than before. If you suspect that asbestos is present on a site you are working at, don't delay in order to complete the task quickly. Call in accredited experts to remove it safely.

For more information, contact Total Asbestos Services or a similar company.


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Starting a worm farm compost pile has been a really good move for us. It saves us a lot of space in the rubbish bin and it also helps make our garden much more efficient. Since we started using the compost our garden uses much less water and we are getting great yields from the veggie patch. The kids love seeing the worms wriggling around and eating all of the food and they are learning a lot about the natural environment in the process. This blog is all about the environmental benefits of composting at home and doing other things to improve the environment.