In Queensland, there are a number of laws relating to building and renovating. There are also specific laws designed to protect the health of homeowners, their families and the general community by ensuring asbestos is handled, removed and disposed of safely.
There are nine particular things you need to know before every job you plan to do with asbestos:
More information on these points is provided below.
Some renovation activities may require approvals from your local council, such as planning permits and building approvals. Please contact them before starting any work.
Your choices are to dispose of the waste yourself or employ a waste contractor. If disposing of asbestos waste yourself, it is important to contact your local Council to find out their requirements (eg. where to take the waste, how much it will cost). You will also need to package the waste to minimise the chance of asbestos fibres getting into the air. Read more information on waste disposal.
If you are planning to remove 10 square metres or less of bonded materials containing asbestos, you do not require an asbestos removal certificate. However, you will still need to take safety precautions to minimise asbestos fibres getting into the air. Read more about suggested safety precautions.
If you are planning to remove more than 10 square metres of bonded materials containing asbestos, you are required to:
The fact sheet on Asbestos Removal Certificates provides further information for homeowners, owner-builders and the public.
As a guide, 10 square metres is equivalent to approximately four sheets of asbestos cement wall sheeting or approximately one wall of a typical bedroom.
Loosely bound materials containing asbestos must only be removed by an asbestos removal business with an “A” Class certificate. Businesses that remove these materials can be found by searching in the Yellow Pages under “Asbestos Removal and/or Disposal”. You will need to make sure they hold a current ‘A’ Class removal certificate issued by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. More information on ‘A’ Class removal certificates from Workplace Health and Safety, Queensland.
If you are doing work other than removal (eg. preparing an asbestos wall for painting, drilling a hole), you do not require a certificate. You will still need to take safety precautions to minimise asbestos fibres getting into the air. Read more about suggested safety precautions.
When planning your work, don’t forget your family and neighbours. Under public health laws, you have a responsibility to make sure that you protect their health by not releasing asbestos fibres into the air during your work.
You should also speak to your neighbours about the work you are about to do. It is particularly important to explain the safety precautions you will be taking to minimise the chance of asbestos fibres getting into the air.
There are three particular activities you must never do when working with or removing a bonded material containing asbestos:
All of these activities are very dangerous because they can release large numbers of asbestos fibres in to the air. They are illegal. Substantial on-the-spot fines apply.
Before starting your work, you will need to plan how you will carry out the job. You will also need to purchase an amount of equipment specific to working with asbestos. The equipment is available from a variety of stores, including hardware and safety equipment suppliers. Read more information about equipment needed for some common jobs with asbestos.
An example of a proper respirator (Image courtesy of Dept. of Human Services, Victoria)
Ordinary dust masks are not effective in preventing the inhalation of asbestos fibres and dust. Cheap masks may save dollars but they do not provide adequate protection against airborne asbestos fibres.
You will need to purchase and use a specific respirator designed specifically for working with asbestos. Wear a half-face filter respirator fitted with a class P1 or P2 filter cartridge, or a class P1 or P2 disposable respirator appropriate for asbestos.
Dust masks do not protect against asbestos (Image courtesy of Health and Safety Executive, Great Britain)
Males should be clean-shaven to make sure there is a clean seal between their face and the mask. The respirator should have an airtight fit. Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to check the fit of the respirator.
Keep your respirator on until all work and clean up is done and your contaminated clothing is removed, bagged and sealed.
Disposable coveralls should be used to prevent the contamination of any clothing, including your shoes/boots. A disposable hat and disposable gloves should also be worn.
Do not keep the clothing, reuse them or shake the dust out of them. After your work is complete, spray your clothing with a light mist of water and remove them. Keep your respirator on when doing this. Seal all of these in your asbestos waste bags for disposal (contaminated clothing can be disposed of with other asbestos waste). Read more information about disposing of asbestos waste.
To remove any dust and asbestos that may be on your body, have a thorough shower after finishing your work. Make sure you wash your hair as well.
You must clean up, package and dispose of all asbestos waste (including scraps and surplus asbestos) as soon as possible after you produce it. No asbestos can be stored or kept for another use. This is to minimise the chance of asbestos fibres being released into the environment and the risk of you, your family and your neighbours breathing in the fibres.
Read more information about packaging asbestos waste.
Read more information about disposing of asbestos waste.
Under Queensland law, you cannot sell or give away asbestos. Substantial penalties apply.