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Asbestos care during storm season

Businesses are reminded to treat asbestos materials safely in the aftermath of storms and floods this summer.

There are strictly enforced laws governing the removal of asbestos and penalties for breaching these laws. A Brisbane roofing company was fined $100,000 and convicted in the Brisbane Magistrates Court for failing to handle and safely dispose of asbestos after it was engaged to remove a storm damaged roof and a number of people were exposed to asbestos containing dust (ACD).

An improvement notice was recently issued to a painter working on a Salisbury home, directing him to engage an appropriate asbestos licence holder to remove ACD. Workplace Health and Safety Queensland received reports the painter had been cleaning the Super Six asbestos roof with a garden hose with wand attachment. The use of high pressure water on an asbestos containing material is illegal and dangerous. It cost nearly $20,000 to clean up the related ACD and a prosecution under work health and safety laws is likely.

Last month, WHSQ also received a report that high pressure water had allegedly been used to clean an asbestos roof of a house at Deception Bay. An investigation identified ACD arising from the use of the high pressure water. A similar Boonah incident also was investigated. The ACD from these events is still be cleaned up with clean-up costs likely to be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Even the pressure of water spray from a garden hose onto asbestos materials can cause fibres to be released into the environment. When they dry out later, they become hazardous if anyone breathes them in. The definition of high pressure water is not restricted to that coming from a water blaster.

Storms often damage fences and roofs, and floods bring mud into homes and yards. Unfortunately in homes built before 1990, it’s likely that these roofs and fences will contain asbestos. In Bundaberg last month, the Council fielded many calls from concerned residents about asbestos fibres whipped up by a severe storm and the media reported an asbestos containing roof found in a neighbourhood yard after flying off a nearby house.

Employers and workers involved in the flood and storm recovery efforts must still remember their obligations under Queensland's health and safety laws. These laws are in place to protect everyone in the community. By being vigilant and maintaining safety during this difficult time, you can help reduce health risks to yourself, your workers and others involved in the clean-up and repair effort.

Further information

More information on handling asbestos safely is at worksafe.qld.gov.au.

Last updated
18 December 2017

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