news 2 December 2013

Leave asbestos to the experts

Leave asbestos to the experts

The Association of Building Consultants has used today's launch of Asbestos Awareness Week to issue a warning to DIY and home handymen to protect their health by leaving any inspection and removal of asbestos to the experts.

Association spokesperson, Mr Andrew Butler, said with as many as one in three Australian homes believed to contain building materials with some type of asbestos there were significant health risks to the domestic DIY person if handled incorrectly.

"Typically asbestos can be found in the forms of asbestos cement products, certain types of vinyl floor coverings, insulation to hot water pipes and services , and electrical switchboards - in particular the old black mounting boards - and all need to be handled with extreme caution by qualified and trained experts," Mr Butler said.

"This week's Asbestos Awareness Week should put a renewed focus on the dangers related to asbestos management and removal, and help to prevent asbestos-related illness through increased community awareness," he said.

"It is also a timely reminder for people to make sure that all asbestos products are maintained safely around their home."

The Association of Building Consultants offers the following safety pointers to consider:

* Where there is any doubt about whether something may or may not contain asbestos, then err on the side of caution, and treat it as asbestos or otherwise get a professional to have a sample tested and analysed to qualify the material content. Laboratory analysis costs can range between $60-$100 per sample and will depend on the type of material and analysis technique that is required.
* If renovating or upgrading, consider what impacts the presence of asbestos products may have to the schedule of works, and look at any budget impact as an investment in your health and part of the overall construction costs.
* Never attempt work on asbestos materials unless you are competent and trained to do so. Under current Work Health and Safety Regulations and defined work environments, only a licensed removalist can carry out the work.

"Asbestos is a health concern when fibres detach and become airborne and there is greater potential for fibres to be released through weathering or when materials are disturbed, so always consider remedies or safe removal options," Mr Butler said.

"If asbestos products are in good condition and well-maintained then it is likely to pose no immediate health risk, but the average person is unlikely to properly identify the multitude of asbestos products or assess the possible risk to health from just a quick look," he said.

"A pre-purchase inspection should be an important part of buying a home or investment, so that a buyer understands any areas of maintenance, repairs or issues that should also be taken into account during the decision-making process."

"Where a pre-purchase home inspection detects or suspects asbestos materials that may need some form of attention, an Association of Building Consultant member can assist with recommending a trained and qualified asbestos expert for further advice."

Asbestos Awareness Week runs between Monday, 25 November through to Friday, 29 November 2013 and is promoted and supported by Safework SA, SA unions, the Asbestos Diseases Society of SA and Asbestos Victims Association of SA.

Author: Andrew Butler