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What Is Asbestos Abatement?

Date Added: December 21, 2011 03:03:25 PM
Author: jack_russell
Category: Asbestos Removal Victoria

Asbestos Abatement is simply the term used to describe the process of removal or safe containment of asbestos. Asbestos is a highly toxic, now banned substance that was widely used throughout the Australian building industry right up until the 1980’s.


 From the 1950's onwards asbestos usage was widespread, it was standard procedure to coat the steel girders of all large multi storied buildings such as hospitals and schools with asbestos fire proofing, whilst in the common home asbestos is ubiquitous and can be found all over the house from attic insulation boards to decorative roof tiles and many other areas too numerous to mention.


Increased awareness of the dangers posed by asbestos has lead to

a greater understanding  of the enormous problem that residual asbestos poses, asbestos can deteriorate over time and  enter a "friable" state, meaning it begins to crumble and release harmful fibres into the air.


These fibres can be disturbed and circulated around buildings especially those with  air conditioning and get  breathed in by anyone in the locale, it is no surprise therefore that people are keen to see these materials removed and that the asbestos abatement industry is a growing sector of the Australian economy.



Asbestos abatement however is a complicated procedure and if not done properly can create a far more hazardous environment than if it was left undisturbed. There

are many items of legislation in place to regulate the process of asbestos abatement

and whilst the detail of legislation differs from state to state, generally speaking, if  in your home or workplace you suspect an area of more than 10 square metres to be contaminated  then you must contact a licensed asbestos abatement contractor to deal with the situation .


Sensible advice however would be to contact a certified professional regardless,

 rather than try to conduct your own hands on investigation without the proper training or safety gear as laid out in The Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos [NOHSC:2002 (2005), which states that to  remove  bonded asbestos materials or products greater than 10m2 someone that has a Class B removal certificate should be employed., whilst friable or loose materials and products should only be taken away by somebody that possesses a Class A removal certificate.



Asbestos Abatement Strategies


There has been considerable debate in Australia as well as many other countries about the best way to approach asbestos abatement  in buildings and there are basically

four approaches: To label and leave it, for example if the asbestos is intact, in a "non friable state", unlikely to be disturbed and unlikely to leech fibres into the air.

Enclosing  the asbestos so that entry into the asbestos zone and subsequent disturbance is not possible. Deep sealing the asbestos, again if it is intact and

not likely to be disturbed . Finally there is the option to remove the asbestos, especially so if it is damaged or crumbling and there is a high likelihood that

it will be disturbed. Removal eliminates the hazard for good but must be done the right way within the parameters of best practice.




The Process Of Asbestos Abatement


The first stage of asbestos abatement  is to properly identify whether the suspect material is in fact asbestos or perhaps a similar looking but harmless product, such as modern  cellulose "fibroboard" that  can look virtually identical to older asbestos “fibroboard”. An asbestos abatement professional will have a sample tested at an accredited laboratory and if the sample returns a reading of more than 1% then it is considered by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to be "asbestos containing".


After the source has been identified as asbestos you will need to find a professional contractor with the appropriate licensing and state-regulated training

to conduct the work, your state health department will have a list of accredited asbestos abatement contractors.


Prior to work commencing all furniture will be removed, all surfaces will be sealed off and airflow on the site will be controlled often using plastic sheeting

and negative air pressure machines fitted with HEPA filters.


There should be a site specific risk assessment carried out in consultation with employees which will outline the safest removal procedure that minimises the release of dust and fibres. Friable material, that which is crumbling or in a serious state of deterioration is considered the most dangerous.


There are specific recommendations to employ when working with asbestos including the wearing of protective overalls with an approved respirator and wetting down material to reduce the amount of dust released as a result of work.



Depending on which asbestos abatement method is deemed appropriate for the site, the asbestos will now be removed, sealed or enclosed. If the asbestos that is being removed is friable damaged or more than 200 square metres in area then the asbestos abatement contractors must be fully licensed under the National Occupational Health & Safety Commission's Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos, with the relevant permits obtained prior to a commencement of work.



The final part of the asbestos abatement process concerns its safe disposal, the EPA or local council will have specific requirements and approved disposal facilities, but regardless, all waste containing asbestos must be, kept damp, double bagged, labelled sealed, removed from the site as soon as possible and transported in a covered, leak proof vehicle in the correct way as prescribed by the EPA. Contaminated material must be disposed of correctly and vehicles thoroughly cleaned before leaving the disposal site.