The import, manufacture and use of asbestos is now banned in Australia. However, asbestos products were used extensively in Western Australia – most commonly as flat or corrugated asbestos cement sheeting in buildings and/or fencing.
Asbestos cement building products are not a health risk if left undisturbed in buildings. However, safe work procedures must be followed to remove it. Asbestos must be handled with extreme caution to minimise the release of potentially harmful fibres.
Removing asbestos safely
- Keep asbestos cement sheets wet with water or sprayed with a PVA (polyvinyl acetate) solution during removal
- Wear disposable coveralls and either a class P1 or P2 disposable mask if you are in the asbestos removal area
- Use only non-powered hand tools or portable power tools incorporating dust suppression or dust extraction attachments designed to collect asbestos fibres
- Take care to ensure minimal breakage during removal. Roofing materials must be lowered to the ground, not dropped
- Removed sheets should be stacked on polythene sheeting, then wrapped and sealed into bundles for disposal. Alternatively, place directly in disposal bins that have been lined with polythene sheeting and seal for disposal
- Don’t leave sheets lying about where they may be further broken or crushed
- When stacking removed sheets, take care not to slide one sheet over another, which could release fibres
- Clean or seal roof gutters before removing
- Clean any visible asbestos cement residue remaining in the roof space or within the removal area with an approved vacuum cleaner if necessary
- Keep all waste containing asbestos wet, wrapped in polythene or sealed and remove from the site as soon as possible.
Disposing in landfill sites
Within the metropolitan area, asbestos cement waste must be disposed of in line with the Environmental Protection (Controlled Waste) Regulations 2004:
- Material containing asbestos must be separated from all other waste
- It must be wrapped in plastic in line with the Health (Asbestos) Regulations 1992
- It must be clearly labelled and marked ‘Caution Asbestos’ in writing at least 5cm high.
The use of high-pressure equipment to clean materials that contain asbestos is strictly prohibited - this includes the use of compressed air or high-pressure water jets.
It is an offence to sell, swap, give away or supply second-hand asbestos cement sheeting.
Any issues with the management of asbestos in an occupational environment (e.g. work place) should be referred to the Department of Commerce (WorkSafe).