Workplace Health and Safety Queensland -- Asbestos film targets home renovators and tradies

Targeting home renovators and tradies alike, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) has published a new film that shows how to locate, identify and work safely with asbestos.

The Christmas holiday period brings the time and motivation for DIY enthusiasts and homeowners using tradespeople to get stuck into minor renovations. Before you start, you must take the time to find out about asbestos in your home.

This short film urges home renovators and tradies to play it safe with asbestos materials and to be aware of the risks of exposing themselves and others to asbestos fibres during renovation projects.

It shows common places where asbestos can be found in a typical Queensland home built before 1990 (when asbestos was commonly used as a construction material) and gives tips on preventing exposure to asbestos fibres during renovation.

A supporting guide shows step-by-step safe work procedures for drilling into non-friable asbestos, painting or sealing non-friable asbestos materials, removing ceramic tiles from asbestos sheeting and removing non-friable asbestos cement sheets - all common tasks for DIY home renovators and tradies.

WHSQ Chief Medical Officer Dr Ki Douglas said builders, carpenters and electricians were at risk because they could be working on houses without knowing that they contained asbestos.

"If you're removing asbestos, get a licensed professional to do the job, or if it's minor maintenance, make sure you or the contractor in your house are using safe work procedures and the right equipment," Dr Douglas said.

"We want to make sure that people who are working close to asbestos recognise it and take the right precautions. We should treat asbestos with caution. We shouldn't be afraid of it, but we also shouldn't ignore the risk."

When asbestos is disturbed, broken, sanded or cut, fibres are released into the air which increases the risk of them being inhaled by yourself, your family or neighbours. Although most cases of asbestos related diseases are a result of sustained workplace exposure to asbestos fibres, cases of mesothelioma can still result from brief periods of breathing in high concentrations of asbestos fibres without adequate protection.

To minimise your exposure to these fibres, it is important that DIY home renovators and tradespeople prevent the release of fibres into the air as much as possible by capturing them before they become airborne.

As a general rule, if a house was built:

  • before the mid 1980s, it is highly likely that it will have some materials containing asbestos
  • between the mid 1980s and 1990, it is likely that it will have materials containing asbestos
  • after 1990, it is highly unlikely that it will have materials containing asbestos.

However, if you are not sure whether a material contains asbestos, play it safe and assume it does. Get advice from a licensed asbestos contractor or arrange for the product to be tested.

Asbestos is considered to be safe if it's in good condition, coated and left undisturbed, but there are a few hard and fast rules to follow when renovating:

  • do not break up asbestos containing materials
  • do not use high pressure water blasters on asbestos containing materials
  • keep your neighbours informed when removing asbestos
  • if you are planning to remove more than 10 m2 of non-friable asbestos-containing materials you must either use a licensed removalist or hold a certificate obtained under arrangements established by Queensland Health.

To download the guide, watch the film or learn more about handling asbestos safely visit www.qld.gov.au/asbestos or call 13 QGOV.

Last updated 17 December 2012