The only way to be 100% sure a material contains asbestos is to have it tested.
Have a look at our asbestos labs page for a list of all NATA accredited laboratories and the prices they charge.
For the official code of conduct for asbestos removal from work safe Australia. Click HERE. The document is lengthy but is worthwhile reading if you are more interested in researching asbestos removal safety procedures.
Bolts that hold the sheets in place can be rusted and difficult to remove. You can remove bolts using a battery powered rattle gun with flat blade screw driver attachment. You will need a partner on the other side of the fence with an adjustable spanner to hold the nut in place while the rattle gun is being used.
Asbestos Cladding – can be removed in a variety of ways. Asbestos cladding basically involves the removal of nails from the sheeting. Nails can be removed in a variety of ways the most popular include nail pullers, nail pliers, cold chisel or nail punches.
Using a cold chisel you can knock of the head of the nails by putting the chisel next to the nail and hitting it with a hammer. I have found this method sometimes cracks the sheeting (releasing fibers), but is fairly quick which is a good thing when you are removing hundreds of nails. Usually only useful for removing the heads from smaller nails.
Nail pullers – are probably the best option when removing nails they are quick and do not tend to crack the sheeting, however they will create a small amount of dust when removing the nail.
Nail punches – are a slower but cleaner method of removing nails from asbestos sheeting. Put the punch on the head of the nail and hit the punch with a hammer, this will drive the nail back into the sheet.
The slowest but safest method for nail removal shown below. If you are afraid of asbestos contamination use the method demonstrated in the video below. This method can be used to remove all nails in any asbestos sheeting. This video is not a good demonstration of the P.P.E required to remove asbestos.
Roofing bolts are best removed by impact driver with flat blade attachment.
Roof removal is probably the most dangerous type of asbestos removal. Before work is carried begun you should always clear the area below where you are working, this is to prevent that may fall through the roof becoming impaled on objects below.
Planks of wood should be used to walk on when working on a roof. Old asbestos roofs can be thin due to erosion of wind, hail and rain over many years. Using planks spreads the weight out, minimizing the risk of falling through.
A roof higher than one story will require much more safety precautions such as harnesses and scaffolding, this type of work should be left to professionals.
Respirators – You have a choice between paper, half face mask and full face mask respirators. With the half mask and full mask you will have a choice of two filters a p2 and a p3 filter.
A properly worn full face mask will provide more protection than a half face mask worn properly, this is mostly because the full face mask does not allow asbestos to get on the skin if worn correctly with the coveralls over the mask.
A p2 filter will stop 95% of airborne particulate matter, a p3 filter will stop about 99% of airborne particles. A p2 filter will need to be changed less often when compared to a p3. Both types of filter are suitable for protection against asbestos.
You will have to do a seal test before purchasing a respirator. The video below shows you how to do your own seal test.
Coveralls – It is important to check that coveralls are rated for use with asbestos.
Boots – Boots should have no laces and steel caps. Steel capped gumboots are the best choice for asbestos removal.
Asbestos fibers will become trapped in fabric, fabric footwear such as sneakers and the laces on boots will have to be discarded as asbestos waste at the end of each job.
Asbestos can be carried into your home from your footwear.
Gloves – Fabric gloves should be avoided, asbestos will become trapped in the fabric. Dish washing gloves are more suitable.
DISPOSAL AND CLEAN UP
For more information about disposal sites, their regulations and cost visit our page on D.I.Y asbestos disposal.
When you have finished conducting an asbestos removal job outdoors would consist of picking up any small pieces that may be laying around the site.
Cleaning up after indoor work has been conducted is more difficult. The area in which you worked has to be decontaminated, this is usually achieved using a hazardous materials vacuum rated for asbestos with a .3 micron filter.
If you have removed an asbestos roof the roof cavity should be vacuumed.
Recent statistics show a large increase in asbestos related illness in people who’s exposure has been linked to renovation work.
In the past decade there has been a 700% increase in females and 250% increase in the number of cases of mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure from renovations.
This research show that females seem particularly venerable to the effects of asbestos exposure. Earlier research has concluded that along with females, children and smokers are most at risk from developing an asbestos related illness after exposure.
Other studies have show that a smoker is eighty times more likely to die from an asbestos illness than a non smoker that has had similar workplace exposure levels.
Asbestos fibers if spread throughout the home, will cling to and become in bedded in fabrics. Your carpets, bedding, clothes and curtains could all become asbestos contaminated if you do not follow correct safety procedures.
Internal work is best left to the professionals who will take steps to ensure that asbestos is not spread throughout the home. If you are thinking about removing asbestos from inside your home yourself then it would be advisable to obtain the necessary training which will educate you on how to prevent asbestos from spreading throughout your home.
Removal of external asbestos products such as roofing, external cladding and fencing is generally a lot safer, most of the asbestos fibers released will be carried away by the wind, however if very bad removal techniques are followed contamination of the soil in your backyard can result.
Asbestos sheeting can weight up to 50 kilos. Manual handling of the heavier sheets will increase the risk of injury to your back. Removal of roofing can be especially dangerous due to the risk of falling through the roof, special precautions should be taken when working on an asbestos roof.
A P2 filter will stop 95% of airborne particulate matter and a P3 filter stops 99% of airborne particulate matter. This means your filters will still let 1% to 5% of airborne particles through the filter.
Although filters reduce the amount of airborne particles inhaled to an acceptable risk, they do not completely eliminate it. This is why it is always important to avoid breaking, sawing or abrading sheets when removing asbestos.
Asbestos exposure can cause asbestosis, mesothelioma, pleural plaques and cancer. The more fibers inhaled the greater the risk of developing complications.
If you breathe in only a small amounts of fibers then your risk of developing health complications is small, but not zero. There are many cases of people developing problems with only a single time exposure or unknown exposure source.
If your house was built prior to 1987 then there is a good chance that asbestos materials were used in the construction including outside buildings and fences. Asbestos cement sheets (otherwise known as “fibro“) was a popular construction material used in many Australian homes from the 1940′s through to the mid 1980′s. This relatively cheap product enabled many homes in the post war period to be constructed quickly and economically.
The devastating health effects were first felt by those who came into contact with the raw material, that being asbestos mine workers, wharfies who unloaded it from ships and workers employed at factories making asbestos products.
But it didn’t stop there.
Many tradesmen such as builders, construction workers, plumbers, electricians and others were exposed to asbestos fibers whilst working with asbestos materials as part of their duties. Little did they know and little did the companies who manufactured the stuff, care, that long term exposure could result in lung disease such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Have we forgotten the many who suffered during the 1990′s with high profile court cases widely publicized in the media and for those who suffered in silence, so easily? Please remember them.
A new generation of home renovators are now dealing with asbestos cement products. But many renovators are unaware of the deadly asbestos contained in their older building materials and how to identify and deal with them. Indeed it’s been suggested there will be a new wave of asbestos related illnesses due to renovators being exposed to asbestos fibers after disturbing asbestos building products when renovating older houses.
Bear in mind, exposure to asbestos fibers will not kill you instantly, the disease can have a latency period of 20 years or more before any symptoms become apparent…and by that time it’s too late.
For the most part, asbestos materials such as fibro roofing, walls and fencing are relatively safe if left undisturbed. However, you may need to deal with asbestos products during renovations, demolitions or when there has been some breakage.
With asbestos fibers being potentially lethal, you may wonder why even attempt a D.I.Y asbestos removal job yourself.
Well here are some reasons:
- Cost effective.
- Maybe your only choice in a remote location of Australia.
- Satisfaction of the job done properly.
However, the downside of D.I.Y asbestos removal can be:
- Dealing with a hazardous and deadly material.
- Can be physically demanding and dangerous not just from asbestos. For example working on fragile roofs has the potential for you to fall through and there could be back breaking heavy lifting required, not to mention the risk of stepping on nails!
- Requires you to dispose to the removed asbestos in a safe manner.
- Takes up your time.
Asbestos removal regulations.
Another aspect you may need to consider when planning D.I.Y asbestos removal is any possible restrictions placed on the removal of asbestos from your property by government authorities. Whilst asbestos has been tightly controlled in workplace situations with stringent occupational health and safety laws for many years, only recently have some state governments decided to control asbestos removal from domestic dwellings by the home owner.
Each Australian state has different laws regulating asbestos removal, in addition some local authorities or councils may also have regulations for handling asbestos, renovations and demolitions. Large renovations may require building and demolition permits and you may be asked to do a asbestos audit before you start.
Make yourself familiar with these laws to avoid any unpleasant fines or prosecutions.
State by state guide to D.I.Y Asbestos regulations:
In Queensland you are permitted to remove up to 10 square metres of bonded asbestos material without a certificate or permit. To remove and dispose of a greater amount than this then you must use the services of a licensed asbestos removalist or obtain a ‘B’ class permit. ‘B’ class Permits require you attend a training course and skills assessment before the permit is issued. Loosely bound or friable asbestos such as insulation, lagging, acoustic tiles etc can only be removed by a licensed asbestos removalist with an ‘A’ class certificate.
New South Wales
You are permitted to remove a maximum of 10 square meters of bonded asbestos in New South Wales. Above 10 square meters you must either hire a qualified asbestos removalist or obtain a NSW Work cover bonded asbestos removal licence which requires you to attend an appropriate training course run by TAFE or a registered training organization. Any loose or friable asbestos must be removed by an qualified asbestos removalist and cannot be removed by the homeowner. Refer to NSW Workcover Fact Sheet Bonded Asbestos and NSW Worksafe Abestos and fibro.
In Victoria, home owners do not face any restrictions on removing asbestos materials themselves. However, any contractors employed on the site will be subject to Victorian Work safe Occupational Health and Safety laws which require the work site be made safe and the home owner responsible for this. An unlicensed person may remove non-friable asbestos material if the area does not exceed 10 square meters and the total time over which the removal is performed does not exceed one hour per 7 days. A large renovation project may require you to do an audit of asbestos containing materials and notify the Victoria Work safe Authority. See “Asbestos in the home” and “Asbestos Handbook“
For the home renovator in the ACT it’s not quite clear how much or if the owner renovator may deal with asbestos themselves. Certainly, tradespeople(builders, plumbers, gas-fitters) may remove up to 10 square meters of bonded asbestos (such as asbestos cement sheeting) provided they have been trained to do so. Larger quantities of asbestos and any friable asbestos (such as insulation or lagging) must be removed by a licensed asbestos removalist. To add to the confusion, the ACT’s Asbestos Awareness website lists a number of safe work fact sheets detailing asbestos removal and working with asbestos. Are these for the home renovator or for tradesmen? What’s going on ACT?
Home renovators in South Australia may remove a maximum of 10 square meters of bonded asbestos (such as asbestos sheeting) and 0.5 square metres of friable asbestos.
Home renovators in the Northern Territory may personally remove up 10 square meters of asbestos cement material (such as asbestos cement sheeting) without need for a permit. Any removal greater than 10 square meters and removal of friable asbestos (such insulation or lagging) must be done by an asbestos removal contractor issued with an asbestos removal license issued by NT Work Safe.
***Updated 3 October 2011***
There are no restrictions on the amount of non friable asbestos you can removal yourself as a D.I.Y renovator…which means you can remove as much asbestos cement sheeting as you like. However, you must remove it in accordance with the building regulations and must make reasonable steps to identify any asbestos products before commencing work. In addition you must make sure any debris does not fall into public space (and any dust also, I assume). So don’t put your asbestos waste on the front verge!
Any amount of friable asbestos (small or large) cannot be removed by non licensed persons. For good reason… this stuff is just plain dangerous to have around… run away quick if you see friable asbestos.
Of course you must dispose of asbestos waste in a legal manner as well, which will mean a phone call to your local council for the nearest asbestos and hazardous waste disposal site, or getting a bin in from a (reputable) waste removal company that handles asbestos.
Changes for unlicensed contractors:
Recent changes in the Workplace Health and Safety Regulations 1998 have reduced the amount of non friable asbestos unlicensed contractors may remove. This for example would apply to handymen, builders, plumbers, roof contractors etc who are not licensed to remove asbestos but employed or contracted by you to do work on your house and may come into contact with asbestos as part of the job. Previously, this was a maximum of 100 square meters, but this is now reduced to 10 square meters… and work must be carried out not exceeding 2 hours over a 7 day period.
In Western Australia, home renovators do not require a permit to remove asbestos themselves in their own homes. An exception is when more than 200 square meters of roofing asbestos cement sheeting is to be removed, which then does require a class 3 demolition license. Also removal of friable asbestos such as thermal and acoustic products ( such as insulation and lagging) must be removed be a licensed contractor.