Contributed Article

Your asbestos questions answered

16 August 2017

Property managers get asked all sorts of questions about asbestos, but often don’t know the answers.

REINSW’s Commercial Partner, BIV Reports Pty Limited, have put together the answers to the most popular questions asked about asbestos to help property managers assist their owners, tenants and contractors.

What is friable and non-friable asbestos?

Friable asbestos is material that is in a powder form, or that can be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to a powder by hand pressure when dry, and contains asbestos. 

Non-friable asbestos is material containing asbestos that is not friable asbestos, including material containing asbestos fibres reinforced with a bonding compound (from page 10 of “how to manage and control asbestos in the workplace” code of practice).

Is asbestos at a property I manage dangerous?

Many homes built before 1990 may contain Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM). Asbestos is not dangerous when it is in a bonded condition, such as fibro, and it is kept painted, sealed and in good condition. 

When is asbestos dangerous?

Asbestos is dangerous when it’s friable, damaged or broken. In this condition, fibres become airborne due to activities such as cutting, drilling, grinding or creating dust. 

Once the asbestos becomes airborne, that is when it can be inhaled and become embedded in your lungs.

Do any asbestos items need to be removed?

Not usually. The only items that need to be removed are broken or friable Asbestos Containing Materials, which is when asbestos fibres are visible and its possible for them to become airborne.

On occasions you might see dust from asbestos flues sitting on top of hot water systems. If the asbestos is still in good condition and is sealed, removing the ACM may expose the asbestos.

Does the owner have to remove all Asbestos Containing Material from the property?

No, this is not a requirement. There is however a requirement to make the asbestos item safe.

Who do I engage to remove asbestos from a property I manage?

If the amount to be removed is less than 10m2 and the material is non-friable, a licenced removalist is not required. If the amount is greater than 10m2 and the material is non-friable, a Class B Asbestos Removalist Licence is required. 

A Class A Asbestos Removalist Licence is required to remove any amount of friable asbestos and a person holding this licence can remove any form and amount of asbestos. 

Can my contractors insist on the removal of Asbestos Containing Materials before commencing work?

No, they cannot insist on its removal. Of course, they can refuse to do the work in line with their own risk management strategies. 

Appendix ‘F’ of the code of practice “how to manage and control asbestos in the workplace” highlights recommended safe work practices when working on or with Asbestos Containing Material, suggesting this will occur from time-to-time.

How can I ensure asbestos at a property I manage does not become dangerous?

Simply get a BIV Reports Pty Limited Asbestos Register and Management Plan which identifies where asbestos may be located in the building and in which building materials, the condition of the asbestos and how it needs to be dealt with.

In an emergency, how would someone collect samples for testing?

Appendix ‘A’ of the code of practice code of practice “how to manage and control asbestos in the workplace” describes the sampling process and how to safely collect a sample for testing by a NATA accredited laboratory.

We do not recommend taking the sample yourself if it can be avoided, however in some circumstances it may be required.

You and your owners have responsibilities under the Civil Liability Act and the Work Health and Safety legislation, with fines up to $3 million for non-compliance.

You have a Primary Duty of Care under section 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act to provide necessary information and to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that the property is safe for any person.

For more information regarding the management of asbestos visit Code of Practice - How to Manage Asbestos and Code of Practice - How to Safely Remove Asbestos.

BIV Reports Pty Limited’s Asbestos Reports (including Asbestos Register and Asbestos Management Plan) start from $330 (including GST) for a single residential dwelling, and they also inspect commercial, industrial and retail premises.

They are available to discuss any asbestos or safety matters. For more information, please contact Shane Foley (Director) on 0412 039 189 or 1300 107 280 at any time.