Asbestos is a natural mineral that is used to add strength and improve the chemical or heat-resistance properties of various products. It was widely used in heat, sound and electrical insulation materials during construction of buildings. Asbestos is classified as a hazardous material since inhalation of its dust and fibers can cause serious illnesses such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. The use of asbestos was banned in Australia in 2003. The country once had one of the highest rates of asbestos use in the world. Many buildings built before 2003 have asbestos, which poses a significant risk to their occupants. Local asbestos removal is a measure one can take to remove and dispose of asbestos materials in their home.
Asbestos is classified into friable and non-friable asbestos. Friable asbestos is that which can produce powder when held, such as pipe insulation and sprayed asbestos. Non-friable asbestos is that which is firmly bonded onto the material, such as asbestos found in floor tiles and corrugated sheets. In Australia, one must be licensed to remove asbestos. Local asbestos removal must be conducted with utmost caution. When it is done in a work environment, then the person doing the removal must be trained in safe asbestos removal practices. An asbestos awareness course is considered as appropriate training. Such a person a (plumber for instance) is considered duly qualified to remove small amounts of non-friable asbestos as they conduct repairs and maintenance. It is mandatory that the person employs safe working methods so as not to pollute the environment or cause harm to other people.
The following guidelines are to be followed when removing asbestos.
- When asbestos removal is to be carried out in a workplace, a copy of the asbestos register must be obtained.
- Erection of signs and barricades when appropriate to show asbestos-related works are taking place.
- Use of correct equipment and tools when carrying out the works.
- When applicable, wet asbestos removal method should be used.
- All asbestos waste should be contained, labelled and disposed of as soon as possible.
- Decontamination services should be provided for.
- All disposable personal protective equipment used during asbestos removal should be sealed, labelled and appropriately disposed of. If not, it should be laundered in a laundry equipped to handle asbestos-contaminated material.
Asbestos is dangerous to the human body. As such, it is recommended that a qualified person does local asbestos removal. Further, safety standards should be strictly observed.