HOMEOWNERS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MANAGING ASBESTOS
Asbestos in the home can pose serious health risks to you, your family, and anyone who undertakes work on your property. The aggressive cancer mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer can all be caused by asbestos exposure. It’s important that you manage asbestos appropriately to mitigate the risk.
If you are thinking about renovating and you have asbestos
Any major renovation such as pushing out walls, changing ceiling height, replacing all window frames, or changing room layout may disturb asbestos and release fibres into the air.
“ Managing asbestos situation correctly is vital before you begin renovations. Otherwise you may increase the risk of asbestos exposure and put anyone working on your home at a health and liability risk.”
We come from a proud nation of DIY enthusiasts. People assume because they know how to renovate a home that they can also deal with the asbestos problem themselves. But DIY asbestos removal can exacerbate the issue.
Under current law, you can try to remove and/or manage asbestos yourself. However, if you don’t follow correct protocol you may contaminate the area to the extent that a tradesperson is not legally able to enter the site.
Tradespeople who work on buildings are particularly at risk for the serious health consequences of asbestos exposure. Of the 232 cases of mesothelioma that were notified to the National Asbestos Medical Panel between March 1992 and July 2012, asbestos processors, plumbers/fitters/laggers, and carpenters/builders accounted for 60%.
Because of this increased risk, by law tradespeople cannot put themselves or their staff at risk by entering a site that is contaminated by asbestos fibres. If you try managing asbestos without following correct protocol, tradespeople cannot do work on your property until you have had the situation dealt with by professional asbestos removal contractors.
If you have a linoleum floor that you suspect is asbestos-backed. If you try to remove the ACM yourself and do not do it according to the health and safety professional protocol you may actually contaminate your home with asbestos fibres.
This means if you then request a flooring tradesperson to apply new lino or flooring to an area that has not been correctly removed of asbestos they are then legally liable as a PCBU and therefore cannot allow their staff to work in your home until the asbestos fibres are tested and removed professionally.
If you do choose to try to remove asbestos yourself, there are also crucial protocols around disposal of asbestos materials. You can’t just put your asbestos-backed lining in the rubbish bin. This is because once you have disturbed asbestos materials, the fibres are more likely to be released. If you don’t follow correct rules for disposal a removal company is not legally allowed to come and pick up the asbestos materials because that would put themselves and their staff at risk.
We strongly recommend that you leave asbestos removal to the professionals and get the job done correctly to avoid further complication.
Find out more information at http://asbestosremovalnz.co.nz/safe-asbestos-removal/.
How do I find out if I have asbestos?
To find out if asbestos is present, a sample of material from an area you suspect might contain asbestos needs to be sent to a laboratory to be tested.
We do not recommend that you take your own sample, as this can create a further risk of exposure if the sampling is done incorrectly. The most important risk you have to consider is that by cutting or disturbing asbestos to remove a segment for testing, you are potentially releasing dangerous asbestos fibres into the air. It’s best to leave sampling to professional asbestos testers. See more information at http://asbestosremovalnz.co.nz/asbestos-testing/.
What needs to be done if asbestos is identified?
Some asbestos materials can be simply identified and left in place if they are in a stable condition and/or “encapsulated”. Other asbestos will need to be professionally removed. So, it’s important to get the asbestos situation assessed so you know how to manage it. An asbestos surveyor will be able to provide recommendations on your best options, which are likely to be one of the following.
Leaving the asbestos in place
If the area is not likely to be disturbed and the asbestos is in good condition, it may be able to be left in situ, as long as it is regularly monitored. This will depend on the location and condition of the asbestos, as well as the likelihood of disturbance. For example, if you have asbestos lagging on pipes under the house where no one goes, and no plumbing work is expected to involve those pipes, it might be appropriate to simply leave the asbestos and monitor it regularly.
Another option for managing asbestos is to safely encapsulate it. Examples of encapsulation options are putting a new false ceiling underneath a stipple ceiling that contains asbestos, or laying linoleum tiles over asbestos flooring. Sometimes asbestos in HardiPlank can be managed by painting over it.
Sometimes the condition of the asbestos is such that the only way to remediate the risk is to remove it. Removal is also necessary in any circumstance where the asbestos will be disturbed. In the example above concerning management of asbestos lagging on pipes, if plumbing work was to be undertaken requiring those pipes, the asbestos would need to be removed before the plumbing work could commence. See more information on a safe removal process at http://asbestosremovalnz.co.nz/safe-asbestos-removal/.
The next practical steps:
- Learn about common asbestos materials – see our guide about what asbestos is and where you could find it in your home.
- Review your property to see if you can identify any existence of asbestos.
- Document your findings
- If you are planning to renovate, arrange for asbestos testing before beginning any work
- If you know you have asbestos in your home, make sure any tradespeople know before they undertake any maintenance or building works.
Contact us if you are concerned about how to safely manage Asbestos in your home.