Managing Asbestos Waste After a Bushfire

What do I need to know urgently about asbestos?

Asbestos and asbestos-containing materials may be present in buildings that have been destroyed or damaged, especially if the building was built before 1986.

Inhaling asbestos fibres has a serious long-term (latency) health risk. Exposure can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, pleural plaques and pleural thickening.

If you suspect the presence of asbestos in any damaged buildings or equipment at your property, do not enter the property. Leave the materials alone and let asbestos licensed removalists test and remove the products.

While asbestos or asbestos-contaminated materials are being removed, stay out of the demarcated zone that waste removalists have set up for safety purposes.

What are likely sources of asbestos?

Potential sources of asbestos and asbestos-contaminated waste are from displaced or damaged buildings, factories, stores, dwelling, apartment and office blocks and supermarkets.

Asbestos and asbestos-contaminated waste may be in roofing, cement, steel beam coating and other building materials.

Asbestos may be found in corrugated asbestos cement roof sheeting, cladding materials, telephone IP boxes, sewer or water pipes, gaskets and fittings (heat resistant), vinyl tiles, fire doors, sprayed asbestos insulation/fire retardant or electrical switchboards. 

It also includes all disposable items used to remove the asbestos waste, such as masks and gloves.

How do I identify asbestos?

Testing is required to identify asbestos. If asbestos is suspected in any materials, it is best to assume asbestos is present until proven otherwise. Asbestos materials must be sent to an appropriately licensed landfill.

Recovery and handling of asbestos can be separated into non-friable/bonded) asbestos, friable asbestos and asbestos-contaminated soil (i.e. asbestos-containing material buried in the soil). Each type has a different method for safe removal.

Asbestos waste cannot be recycled. If the material is tested and proven to contain asbestos, it must be taken to a landfill that is licensed to accept asbestos waste. It will be buried, clearly labelled and its location rec-orded.

What is the process for removing asbestos?

Onsite handling

  • Have a qualified asbestos assessor assess the waste and confirm that it is asbestos waste.
  • Consider hazards and WHS requirements.
  • If greater than 10m2 bonded asbestos waste or any volume of friable asbestos waste, have an appropriately licensed asbestos removalist manage the asbestos waste onsite.
  • Ensure that barriers are erected around the asbestos waste to prevent access by the public.

Collection & transport

  • Have a qualified asbestos removalist transport the asbestos waste.
  • Ensure transport vehicles and containers can fully contain the waste.
  • The asbestos must be wrapped in minimum of 200-micron thick plastic and clearly labelled when transported.

Interim storage

If interim storage is required, ensure it is secure and appropriately signed.

Processing

Asbestos is not recyclable and should be taken to an appropriately licensed landfill.

OH&S Issues

It is important to ensure that:

  • the person conducting the removal is an approved SafeWork SA licence holder (or an employee of a licence holder), if greater than 10m2 of bonded asbestos or any volume of friable asbestos.
  • the work is under the licensable quantities and is performed under safe conditions.
  • protective clothing contaminated with asbestos is not removed from the site unless it is disposed of appropriately, as soon as reasonably practicable, or is contained to be commercially laundered.

Record keeping

Quantities of asbestos can only be transported by an approved appropriately signed vehicle. All waste material must be accompanied by an appropriately completed Transport Certificate (asbestos is Code N220). Transporting asbestos in SA should also be uploaded into the SA EPA’s online tracking system.

More information

Asbestos SA
Asbestos.sa.gov.au

Department of Health
Information on exposure to asbestos products or fibres in domestic situations.
sahealth.sa.gov.au
(08) 8226 7100

SafeWork SA
Information on asbestos in the workplace:
safeworkaustralia.gov.au/news-and-events/news/asbestos-know-your-responsibilities-workplace

SA EPA
Information about online waste tracking:
epa.sa.gov.au/business_and_industry/tracking_and_transporting_waste/about_online_waste_tracking