Safe removal of asbestos from bushfire-damaged properties

Thursday, 31 January, 2013

In the wake of devastating property losses during this bushfire season, WorkSafe is reminding Victorians to take particular care during the clean-up of their properties to avoid potential exposure to asbestos.

Until the late 1980s, asbestos was commonly used in roofing, sheet walls, ceilings and in moulded products such as flues, downpipes, guttering, and water and sewerage pipes.

Other common asbestos-containing materials and products included vinyl floor tiles and sheets, insulation materials and sealants.

Lisa Sturzenegger, WorkSafe’s Health and Safety general manager for operations, said, “We’re asking people undertaking a clean-up of bushfire-damaged property to take particular care to avoid disturbing asbestos fibres.

“The safest way to remove asbestos, particularly if the asbestos is friable, that it is crumbling or disintegrating, is to contact a licensed asbestos remover. There is a list of licensed asbestos removers on the WorkSafe website,” Sturzenegger said.

“We strongly encourage property owners not to attempt to remove asbestos materials themselves. If you suspect that you have asbestos on your property, there is really only one way to identify it, by having it checked by an analyst accredited by the National Association Testing Authority. More details are available at www.nata.asn.au.”

In general, most asbestos materials used in the construction of houses are solid in nature and do not pose a significant risk. However, when asbestos is exposed to high temperatures, such as those found in bushfires, it can become less solid (friable) and begin to crumble. This may result in the release of asbestos fibres into the atmosphere.

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