Understanding how to manage asbestos safely is crucial for anyone who works in the building industry. Asbestos is a potentially serious health and safety hazard and its use was widespread in Australia until the mid-1980s.
Asbestos can be found in plumbing products such as:
- Pipes and other products used for water supply and sewage piping.
- Internal flues.
- Lagging or insulation on vinyl floor tiles.
- Hot water pipes or old domestic heaters.
- Wall and roof sheeting.
- Building boards such as eave or bathroom linings.
- Cement tile underlay.
- Moulded products such as gutters or ridge capping.
- Imitation brick cladding.
When faced with asbestos on the job, there are a few principles that you need to follow, to minimise the risk to yourself, your colleagues and your clients. The first point to understand is that not all asbestos is dangerous. If the asbestos is in good condition and undamaged, it can be left as is – although it cannot be re-used for any other purpose.
Asbestos poses a health risk when fibres are released into the air that people breathe. There is no safe level of exposure to these fibres.
When it comes to removing asbestos, plumbers and other tradespeople are required to follow compliance codes relating to asbestos removal. Apart from a few limited circumstances, you must hold a WorkSafe Victoria license to legally remove asbestos. Small amounts of non-friable asbestos can be removed in certain circumstances.
All licensed and unlicensed removal work must accord with the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007 (Vic). The WorkSafe “Safety Alert” and the Compliance Code “Removing Asbestos in Workplaces” can be viewed at www.worksafe.vic.gov.au.
Information about managing asbestos in the home or workplace can be found at www.health.vic.gov.au. You can also refer to Asbestos: A guide for householders and the general public, or contact your local council environment health officer.