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Asbestos is much more prevalent than the average person might realise, and not just a concern for renovators and tradies. Coloured Zinc Cladding
For nearly a century, much of Australia's infrastructure was built with asbestos-containing materials.
From water mains and sewerage pipes to the fire doors in hospitals and shopping centres, super six roofing on older factories, and the shell of communications pits on nearly every street corner, asbestos is present in public spaces both above and below the ground.
Although Australia banned asbestos use, sale, and importation in 2003, it hasn't miraculously vanished. Government reports estimate there is still around 40,000 kilometres of asbestos water piping running underground in Australia.
Right up into the 1980s asbestos was widely used in power plants and industrial set-ups. Practically anywhere there was power, steam or high temperatures, you would find asbestos insulation. Because of its durability, hospitals, universities, shopping centres, and most public buildings used asbestos widely in vinyl floor covering, fire retarding and control boards. Most fire doors were predominantly made from asbestos-containing materials.
One of the most dangerous and unique aspects of asbestos is that it doesn't become safer as it ages and deteriorates; in fact, it's quite the opposite. When asbestos becomes damaged or friable, that is when the potentially deadly, microscopic fibres are more likely to be released into the air.
Asbestos legacy (remnants from asbestos) in abandoned or under maintained plant and buildings can become a threat to the broader community, particularly in high wind, fire, or weather events that may disperse asbestos fibres into new environments.
Friable asbestos, considered the most high-risk form of asbestos because it is more easily disseminated into the air and breathed in, has a range of additional legal requirements for its safe removal and remediation.
Navigating asbestos law can seem overwhelming, especially for business owners and managers.
Many myths surround asbestos regulations, and fear of removal prices can lead to cost cutting.
Illegal asbestos dumping costs taxpayers millions of dollars every year in clean-up bills and endangers the health of innocent people.
Asbestossafety.gov.au estimates around 6300 tonnes of asbestos containing material is illegally dumped every year in Australia, with a clean-up bill of up to $11.2million.
If you're concerned there may be friable asbestos in your environment, take extra precautions when selecting your asbestos contractor:
Ensure you're using a properly licensed asbestos remover
Ensure your asbestos remover is using the EPA's waste locate system on every load
HTS Group provide seamless solutions for commercial sites, from demolition to asbestos and hazardous materials management and removal, civil construction, and ongoing site maintenance. By using one contractor for multiple stages of work, you can be confident HTS Group will leave your site safe and tidy ready for the next stage, taking responsibility from beginning to end. If you're not sure what's fact or fiction with asbestos management, removal, and remediation, the HTS Group website has accurate, easy to follow information to guide you through the process and help you stay safe.
You can trust HTS Group with every stage of your site's life cycle.
Asbestos Awareness Month helps to inform the general public about the risks associated with asbestos and how to safely manage these materials.
The campaign is aimed primarily at the home renovator and with over 3000 building products manufactured with asbestos in Australia, older homes can be riddled with asbestos-containing materials.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral widely distributed in rock deposits and was mined in Australia for use in building products until late 1983.
It is still mined and used in many countries around the world and continues to make it to our shores where it needs to be removed from products prior to use.
Asbestos becomes a risk to human health when the material is disturbed causing fibres to be become airborne. Inhalation of these fibres can result in serious diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.
Asbestos-related materials are classified as either Friable or Non-Friable
Friable materials are those that can be crushed into a powder using hand pressure. Friable asbestos materials include loose-fill asbestos insulation, millboard products and pipe lagging to name just a few.
These are considered to be a greater health risk to humans and therefore need to be removed by a Class A removalist company such as NAC Services.
Non-Friable materials are bound by a matrix, such as fibre cement sheeting (fibro), vinyl tiles and electrical boards. However, these can also be classified as Friable depending on the condition and glues used.
These products pose a lower risk if managed correctly, however generally occur in larger quantities throughout the home and workplace.
Fibre cement products are the most commonly encountered in the home and can be present in external or internal areas.
"Externally you may find asbestos in the eaves, roof sheeting, gutters, gables and walls to name a few," Murray Lynch, Managing Director of NAC Services, said. "Internally, you will primarily find asbestos-containing fibro in the wet areas such as bathrooms, kitchen and laundry.
"Other common areas to find asbestos around the home are within the electrical box, vinyl flooring products and beneath bathroom and kitchen tiles. The best way to be sure is to have the material tested."
The first question renovators and builders alike ask is how do they manage the asbestos in the house when they knock it down.
"It's a really good question because any asbestos needs to be removed by hand by a licensed removalist and prior to reoccupation a clearance certificate is required which has to be issued by an independent Licensed Consultant," Mr Lynch said. "Once this has occurred demolition works can take place."
NAC Services are licensed to remove all types of asbestos including Class A (Friable) and Class B (Non-Friable) and also provide demolition and other hazardous materials services such as mould removal.
"So if you're thinking of renovating or rebuilding your home or expanding your commercial or Industrial site get in touch and we will send a specialised consultant to your site to inspect and provide you with the right information and guidance," Mr Lynch said.
If you require any asbestos removal or remediation services, contact NAC Services for a free quote on (02) 4947 1762 or Mobile: 0438 885 498.
With over 50 years of experience, Husky is Newcastle's number one asbestos removalist that brings experience and safety to all projects big and small.
Husky knows the importance of safety, with all asbestos projects completed by its fully qualified and trained team. You can be assured that the team completes all projects safely and efficiently, allowing you to return with no safety concerns, Husky owner Ken said.
"We work with all local qualified independent hygienist companies to ensure your protection and that removal works are completed safely and correctly to ensure your peace of mind at the end of your project," he said.
Concerned about the environment? Husky EPA-tracks all asbestos materials from site to a local approved waste facility to ease any concerns regarding illegal dumping.
Husky Group is licensed, insured and accredited to AS/NZS 4801 for its Safety Management System, and follows all guidelines per Safe Work NSW, the Work Health and Safety Acts, Code of Practices and NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA). Husky's Emergency Response Team is available 24/7, vehicles are fully equipped for emergencies involved in asbestos removal and make safes in the event of a fire, or accident.
"Whether you are after a free quote, emergency removal, or after some advice, one of our experienced staff members is waiting for your call," Ken said.
The following services are provided to customers throughout Newcastle, Hunter Valley, Upper Hunter, Lake Macquarie and Central Coast. (Husky can also travel outside of these regions.)
Asbestos awareness is important to local communities as asbestos is still present in millions of Australian homes. Asbestos was used widely in building materials. If your house was built or renovated before the mid 1980's, it is highly likely to contain asbestos cement building materials.
The various types of products that were made from bonded asbestos cement included fibro sheeting (flat or corrugated), water drainage and flue pipes, roofing, guttering, and the back of vinyl sheet floor coverings.
If asbestos containing material is in good condition it poses little health risk. However, if disturbed, small fibres may be released into the air, which if inhaled may lead to asbestos related diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma.
Asbestos related diseases, responsible for 4000 Australian deaths each year, are preventable by following safe practices.
You must always use a licensed asbestos professional to remove friable asbestos and when there is more than 10 square metre of non-friable (bonded) asbestos. However due to the risks associated with disturbing asbestos, SafeWork NSW recommends you use a licensed asbestos professional to remove any amount of non-friable asbestos.
On March 1, 2022, the Wickham Woolsheds caught fire resulting in devastating consequences.
It took four days to fully extinguish the fire, buildings and contents were destroyed and hundreds of local residents were evacuated, some for weeks.
Streets were closed, parks and playgrounds off limits, and hundreds of homes impacted.
Why such a big deal? Asbestos. The roofs and internal linings of the Woolstores were constructed from asbestos cement sheeting.
In a fire event, asbestos-containing materials which were typically utilised for their fire protection and non-combustible properties, can suddenly crack and break causing the product to degrade as the result of loss of moisture from the high temperatures.
Under these fire conditions, asbestos containing material can spall into smaller pieces of asbestos-containing debris. Asbestos-containing debris was found within the Woolstores site and for approximately three kilometres in the direction of the smoke plume resulting in asbestos contaminated fall-out to hundreds of properties and public spaces.
Hazmat Services Pty Ltd (Hazmat) worked alongside government agencies, emergency services, licensed asbestos removalists and assessors to provide specialist advice, air monitoring and clearances throughout the remediation of residential properties and public spaces which was eventually completed almost four months after the fire.
"Our services extended to the Wickham Woolstores site where remediation was finally completed in early November 2022," Hazmat Managing Director Andrew Russell said.
"Hazmat has provided asbestos consulting services in response to many catastrophic events and emergencies including structural fires, bush fires, storm and flood disasters.
"With extensive use of asbestos over many years, it is still present in many residential and commercial structures and can cause significant contamination to properties impacted by fires, storms and flooding as well as nearby properties.
"Careful assessment is required to determine the presence and extent of asbestos and appropriate remedial methods."
Hazmat is a locally owned, Newcastle based business that has been operating for over 15 years and deals with asbestos and hazardous materials issues on a daily basis.
Their consultants have extensive experience dealing with asbestos and hazardous materials on projects throughout Australia and overseas. Their team of qualified Licensed Asbestos Assessors are experts in the field of asbestos and hazardous materials assessment and management and can undertake asbestos inspections, sampling and testing, building and property surveys, risk assessments, asbestos air monitoring, clearance inspections, asbestos management plans, response to emergency situations and other associated services.
Hazmat operates a National Association of Testing Authorities (Australia) (NATA) Accredited laboratory at its Newcastle office that provides asbestos air monitoring services with a same-day turn-around of results.
"If you are having air monitoring or asbestos assessments undertaken, make sure the testing is undertaken by a NATA accredited laboratory," Andrew said. "Air monitoring and clearance inspections should be undertaken by a Licensed Asbestos Assessor or Competent Person who is independent from the asbestos removalist with analysis only conducted by a NATA Accredited laboratory."
November is Asbestos Awareness Month and given recent natural disasters are topical, Hazmat is focusing on educating the community on the potential risks presented when asbestos-containing materials are burnt, in a building fire or bushfire, and following catastrophic incidents such as flooding and storm events.
"If your property has been damaged by fire, storms, floods, rain or hail you should take precautions to protect yourself and others by being aware that asbestos could be present and what you might do to manage the potential risk from the damaged asbestos-containing materials," Andrew said.
"Don't assume asbestos is not present, assume it is. Be prepared by having your property surveyed and an Asbestos Register developed so that the location and extent of asbestos-containing materials is known and have an Asbestos Management Plan to cover how to deal with asbestos should it be damaged - these are legally required for business properties."
Metal Roof Zinc Hazmat Services can provide comprehensive asbestos assessment and identification, risk assessment, asbestos make safes and asbestos remediation plans following catastrophic events and natural disasters. For further information, visit www.hazmatservices.com.au or contact 02 4961 1887.