Damaged or Exposed asbestos in your home?

15 September 2020

Think you might have damaged or exposed asbestos in your home?

 If you have started work on a home improvement project and suspect you have exposed or damaged asbestos during your work, you need to take precautions which may include arranging for an asbestos professional to come to your home to rectify the situation. This is the case even during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are unsure if the material contains asbestos or not, treat the substance as if it does until a professional confirms otherwise.

Damaged asbestos presents an ongoing health hazard to yourself and anyone else in your home. Asbestos is a known carcinogen and breathing in asbestos fibres may cause life-threatening illnesses such as lung cancer, asbestosis, pleural disease and mesothelioma.

The only way to be sure if something is or isn’t asbestos is to have it tested at an accredited laboratory – you cannot tell simply by looking at it.

If you think you’ve disturbed asbestos you should stop work and seek advice from an asbestos professional on how safely to remove the asbestos and clear up the work area.

To find an asbestos assessor or a licensed removalist, you can call or visit the website of the work health and safety regulator in your state or territory. Contact details for the regulator in your state/territory can be found at: www.asbestossafety.gov.au/contacts

When you call an asbestos professional to come to your home, you must each follow the latest government coronavirus restrictions and guidelines.

There are a number of precautions you should take to ensure that the latest government advice on hygiene measures and social distancing is followed.

  • Check in with the asbestos professional before they visit to ensure you are both feeling well and are not showing symptoms. If anyone in your home is showing symptoms linked to COVID-19, ask the asbestos professional to advise you on how to control the risk of asbestos exposure until you are able to have the professional attend.
  • Remember not to shake hands, you can  wave hello instead
  • Maintain a safe distance at all times in line with current social distancing guidelines (1.5 meters at time of publication)
  • Provide facilities for the professional to wash their hands before and after the job is done and, if possible, supply alcohol based hand sanitiser for them to use
  • Clean and disinfect the surrounding surfaces if work is to be carried out (unless suspected asbestos has been disturbed or is in poor condition)
  • Ensure everyone in the household practises good hygiene at all times including covering coughs and sneezes with an elbow or a tissue and regularly washing hands with soap for a full 20 seconds

Many of the measures used for the safe removal of asbestos, such as isolating the work area, wearing of personal protective equipment and decontamination procedures, are also helpful in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. There is useful information about how to look after your family and any tradesperson who comes to your home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Remember, like plumbing and electrical work, asbestos removal – or renovations that might uncover asbestos – are jobs best left to the experts.