Asbestos Inspections in Australia
Asbestos is a natural fibrous silicate mineral that was widely used in home construction between 1940 and the mid 1980s. Currently, nearly a third of Australian homes contain asbestos products.
Because of the health risks associated with asbestos, all home owners and renovators should be fully informed on how to safely handle asbestos found inside and outside the home.
What are the dangers of Asbestos?
When you disturb materials containing asbestos (either through sanding it, drilling it or cutting it), the materials may produce a cloud of dust composed of asbestos fibers. If you breathe in asbestos fibers, you can be exposed to a number of long-term health risks such as;
1. Lung cancer; your risk of lung cancer greatly increases if you were exposed to asbestos
2. Mesothelioma; this rapidly spreading cancer occurs at the lining of the lungs (abdominal and thoracic cavities)
3. Pleural disease; this involves the irritation and inflammation of the lung’s outer lining, which may hamper breathing
4. Asbestosis; this is the inflammation and scarring of the lungs, hindering oxygen absorption into the blood from the lungs, in turn leading to restricted breathing
These symptoms often appear nearly 20-30 years after initial exposure
Where can you find asbestos?
Below is a list of a few of the places where you can find asbestos:
1. Corrugated roofing
3. Flue pipes
4. Floor Tiles and carpet underlays
5. Floor covering- Vinyl sheet
6. Cement wall sheets (weatherboard and flat style)
7. Roofing shingles
8. Eaves and gables
10. Sheds and carports
11. Flexible building boards
12. Window putty (not all putty)
13. Concrete formwork
14. Expansion joints
15. Imitation brick cladding
16. Telecommunication pits
17. Packing under beans
18. Waterproof membrane
19. Heater insulation, hot water pipe insulation and stove insulation
20. Textured paint
The importance of residential and commercial asbestos inspections
Because most people cannot identify materials containing asbestos, it is necessary to have your home and workplace inspected by a qualified professional.
Residential experts will thoroughly examine all accessible house and home unit areas, identifying all the types of materials located in the aforementioned areas. The experts report will state whether there was any asbestos found in the building, and whether the asbestos can be left and maintained.
If the asbestos cannot be retained, precautionary measures will need to be taken in an effort to minimize the risk of asbestos contamination. The experts you have hired will give you recommendations for the asbestos removal by trained and licensed professionals.
There is legislation in most States and territories that requires all buildings that are suspected of containing asbestos materials to undergo an inspection. There are 3 types of inspections;
- Management asbestos inspections: Presumptive and sampling
- Refurbishment and demolition asbestos inspections
- Clearing asbestos inspections- These inspections follow the removal of friable asbestos, in order to ensure no visible trace of asbestos is left
These work inspections are carried out by asbestos assessors who have passed the training and competency requirements set out by Work Health Safety (WHS). The job of these licensed assessors is to undertake air monitoring inspections, and the consequent clearance inspections.
Once all commercial inspections have been carried out, the results will be tabulated in an asbestos register. Frequent or annual inspections will be required if asbestos are found, with the aim of monitoring the condition of the asbestos.
As we have seen above, asbestos materials are exceptionally harmful and should be handled with care. If you believe that your home or workplace contains this harmful material, talk to a professional inspector or to the work and health safety regulator in your state or territory.