November is National Asbestos Awareness Month


November is National Asbestos Awareness Month  and this year’s events will include the second International Conference on Asbestos Awareness and Management.

Last year’s conference was held in Melbourne but this year the event will take place at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on Brisbane’s Southbank.

The conference will feature experts in asbestos management, health, advocacy and governance from Australia and abroad.

According to the event website, the conference will feature a focus on how Australia can play an influential role in reducing the reliance on asbestos in South East Asia.

Register here.


Senate Hears Asbestos Illegally Imported in Australia in Building Materials


A Senate Inquiry has heard that asbestos is being brought into Australia illegally in building products etc. The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) says this illegal practice of importing asbestos containing products into Australia is common and it isn’t just building materials that we have to worry about.

The inquiry heard that in November last year, cement compound board was found that contained chrysotile asbestos imported into the ACT from China, as much of the asbestos containing materials were. In fact a majority of the goods originated in Asia.

Click here to see more.

Asbestos Discovery on Sydney Building Site


A prohibition notice has been issued after asbestos was discovered on a construction site in Sydney.

Tests discovered that fibrous building panels on the site contained asbestos.

The panels were imported from China containing chrysotile asbestos.

The panels had already been cut on site, the builder had to get a licensed asbestos removalist to remediate the site and remove the remaining asbestos panels.

This incident further highlights the danger of substandard, imported building materials being used across Australia. Find out more here.

WorkSafe Warns of Need to Rid Environment of Asbestos

4649080-16x9-340x191WorkSafe has warned that asbestos needs to be cleared out of our environment and people should not be afraid of the clean-up because it poses little risk to people nearby when done correctly by an accredited removalist.

Via an article on WorkSafe says they have often received enquiries from members of the public about whether asbestos removal poses any risk to the people around when it is being carried out.

WorkSafe principal scientific officer, Sally North says that WorkSafe often receives queries when asbestos is removed and as long as workers follow the code of practice which includes minimising the generation of asbestos fibres, there shouldn’t be any harm to the public.

Accredited removalists will know to keep the work surface wet, using a low pressure spray or by spraying with PVA.

North also explained that it is best to avoid the use of power tools to avoid disturbing the fibres and causing them to disperse into the air. She also added that fixtures should be left in place.

Sally North also explained that the risk is greatest for people who work with asbestos rather than those who may have encountered it once off, therefore those working with it need to be more careful.

For more information read the entire article at

Work on Construction Site Halted after Asbestos Scare

Work on a Murwillumbah construction site has been placed on hold until it is cleared of asbestos. This after the council identified a potential WH&S risk involving asbestos and other contaminants and requested that work on the site be halted until the issues could be resolved.

A meeting was also conducted on the site with an officer from WorkCover NSW, council representatives, the site’s owner and the site development proponents to ensure that all the required health and safety measures are implemented before work can continue on the site.

This excerpt from an article on explains what happened:

25-2156863-twe110413building4_t460AN asbestos and other contaminants scare has caused work to ground to a halt on a 24-hour McDonald’s fast-food outlet and IGA supermarket development at Murwillumbah.

Work would not re-commence on the $3 million Tweed Valley Way development until a “satisfactory” Work Health and Safety Plan had been completed, Tweed Shire Council Director Planning and Regulation Vince Connell said.

In July 25 council identified a potential occupational health and safety risk on the site involving asbestos and other contaminants and requested that the site owner cease all work until the concerns had been addressed, Mr Connell said.

A Workcover NSW officer met this morning with representatives from council, the site owner and the development proponents on the site with the aim of ensuring that appropriate health and safety measures were put in place.


All parties at the site meeting agreed that the next logical step would be for the site principal to consult with the construction consultants and contractors in order to document the construction work conducted up until now and thereafter produce a Work Health and Safety Plan as well as project management measures for future work on the site. These plans would be developed with the assistance of WorkCover NSW and Council.

The development of the McDonalds restaurant seems to have been plagued with problems from the beginning having only been approved last year under 124 special conditions because of some residents opposed to the fast food outlet.

This incident highlights the importance of determining the presence of asbestos before work even begins and making sure that workers on site are aware of the risks. It is also an example of why appropriate health and safety plans are implemented prior to work beginning on the site.

Before work begins on any site the hazards need to be identified and the risks associated with them need to be assessed. Once they have identified the hazards common to the site and the risk associated with them, a safe work method statement should be developed.

All hazards are serious but asbestos and contaminants are particularly so because workers are often unaware of the risk to their health until it is too late and they have been exposed to possibly deadly asbestos fibres. One of the biggest risks of exposure to asbestos fibres is the possibility of developing Mesothelioma. Australia has the highest rate of this fatal disease in the world, which is why the issue of asbestos is such a concerning one in this country especially on construction sites.


Builders Don’t Forget to Check Temporary Power boards for Asbestos

The Workplace Health and Safety Authority Queensland has reminded all builders to check temporary power boards for asbestos. Using and reusing temporary power boards on poles on construction sites is a regular practice however it can expose workers to asbestos fibres.

According to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, asbestos containing materials (also known as ACM) are commonly used as an electrical insulator on meter boards and panels. They are also used as bases to busbars, spark arresters and flash guards. However the older switchboards have a greater chance of containing asbestos.

The work safety authority also warned builders that temporary power boards imported or made before 2 January 2004 may contain asbestos and builders needs to be aware of the risks in order to control them.

WorkSafe has also warned that timber metre boxes which were installed before 1990 were also commonly lined with asbestos cement sheeting. The authority have urged those in the building industry to check their temporary power boards and also dispose safely of any power boards containing asbestos.

No licence is required to remove asbestos from temporary power boards because the quantity is less than 250kg however it must still be disposed of properly and in accordance with the “How to Safely Remove Asbestos Code of Practice 2011”.

This excerpt from the work safe authority’s website explains:

Asbestos containing materials (ACM) were commonly used as an electrical insulator on meter boards and panels in general, and as bases to the busbars, spark arresters and flash guards. The older the switchboard, the more chance there is that it contains asbestos. Generally speaking, if temporary power boards were made or imported before 1 January 2004 they may contain asbestos.

Timber meter boxes installed prior to 1990 were also commonly lined with asbestos-cement sheeting (fibro). Asbestos contaminated dust and debris from the various asbestos components can also be present within the cabinets.

Older switchboards were manufactured from asbestos/resin or asbestos coal tar pitch composite. These asbestos products had brand names such as Zelemite, Lebah, Ausbestos, and Miscolite. These usually have a smooth finish on the surfaces which are dark brown to black in colour and also have a strong tar or bituminous smell to them. Unsealed holes on these surfaces often reveal the presence of whitish fibres protruding from the material. Sometimes the brand names were stamped onto the rear of the boards and panels, but the absence of such labels does not mean asbestos is not present.


The risk comes in when the asbestos in these temporary boards is disturbed for example by drilling into the asbestos containing components like electrical contractors would when setting up the power board. This may cause the asbestos fibres to become airborne and anyone on the site can inadvertently inhale these deadly fibres, risking their short and long term health.

That is why WorkSafe has encouraged builders to check their temporary power boards and safely dispose of any power boards with ACM.

When removing the asbestos, the code of practice dictates that any asbestos containing material be double wrapped/ bagged with a minimum 200 micrometre thickness polythene sheeting/bags. Builders must also label the wrapping with the words “Abestos Waste” clearly visible. The asbestos waste must be transported to an approved hazardous waste facility.


Electrician Fears Hundreds Unexpectedly Exposed to Asbestos

According to an article on hundreds of tradespeople in Canberra could have unexpectedly been breathing in hazardous asbestos fibres while working on houses in the 1970s. The fears have been brought to light by a former electrician who himself worked in Canberra houses during the seventies when he says that he and others may have been exposed to “Mr Fluffy” asbestos without being aware of it.

Also according to the ACT CFMEU, asbestos (including the ”fairy floss” amosite insulation) was a daily concern for workers in the ACT going into houses and commercial buildings. So much so that the CFMEU’s secretary Dean Hall has called for an urgent audit to be undertaken on all commercial premises built before 2003 in order to confirm that mandatory asbestos management has been conducted.

This excerpt from the post on explains,

7The Canberra Times revealed on Thursday that while the ACT government was spending $2 million deconstructing a home in Downer, there had been no investigation into the commercial buildings that could still contain the dangerous substance. Non-residential buildings were not surveyed along with houses built before 1980 under the loose-fill asbestos removal program carried out by the Commonwealth then ACT governments.

Mr Hall said while experienced builders and tradespeople knew about the general risk of asbestos, the union was finding that younger workers, commonly apprentices, were not aware of the dangers.

But he said the risk was potentially in every building.

”On a daily basis we have reports of people who have inadvertently exposed asbestos,” he said.

There was no knowledge of which homes contained Mr Fluffy asbestos and many commercial premises did not have an up-to-date asbestos management plan in place or even have one at all. Mr Hall called for an audit to be completed on all commercial buildings built before 2003 – the year asbestos was banned in Australia – to make sure all properties had been tested for asbestos.

Read more at:

It is frightening to think that there are people walking around who aren’t even aware that they have been affected by asbestos, what is even more concerning is the number of people who weren’t aware of the exposure they suffered and died as a result of undiagnosed and therefore untreated medical conditions relating to asbestos exposure.

According to building industry veterans, crawling into roof spaces during the seventies was a common practice, with no thought given to the fact that asbestos was present and deadly. It was apparently also common to walk through loose infill insulation in many homes. Workers also commonly removed roof tiles to allow light into the work area, leaving themselves exposed to millions of visible asbestos fibres, sadly at this time the risks were not known.

The post goes on to explain:

It was not until the early 1980s that the use of amosite asbestos was banned in Australia and it would be a further eight years before the Commonwealth’s survey was carried out in the ACT.

”You knew you were breathing it in,” Mr Carruthers said. ”You could pick handfuls of it up and it would float away … any movement at all, you just had to walk through it.”

Mr Carruthers said he had recently undergone a medical check-up and had mentioned his asbestos concerns to his doctor and would soon undergo an X-ray.

Read more at:



Construction News: School Evacuated over Asbestos Scare

You know the asbestos crisis has gotten out of hand when it starts affecting schools as it did this week in Victoria. Timboon P-12 school’s future is in question after a number of students and teachers had to be evacuated after asbestos was discovered on the premises. The school had to be shut down and the gates locked so that students were not at risk of further exposure.

This is the last straw for desperate parents who are hoping that the government will now take action after 5 years of lobbying for $7 million to fix down the run down facilities.

According to an article on an independent report commissioned by the government has revealed that 57 per cent of the school buildings are in poor condition and at least 34 per cent need to be bulldozed.

WorkSafe Victoria did not have any information for parents as to how much asbestos was found or the risk it exposed their children to. Parents also do not know when their children will be allowed to return to school.

The post on explained:

1“WorkSafe was called to Timboon P-12 School in relation to asbestos … it identified several safety concerns, including exposed asbestos and peeling paint that may be lead-based,” a spokeswoman said.

She was unable to say who had contacted WorkSafe with the concerns.

“A prohibition notice was issued, which prevents the school being used until all safety issues are addressed.”

The Education Depart-ment released a brief letter to parents through Timboon P-12 principal Rosalie Moorfield, saying that “WorkSafe visited our school to inspect the eaves of our toilet block, which were suspected to contain asbestos”.

“However, the inspector brought wider concerns to our attention and has issued a prohibition notice,” Ms Moorfield said.


According to reports an environmental assessor is now completing an overall review of the school and will release findings soon.

This incident is an example of how innocent lives can be affected by asbestos. Disturbing asbestos materials may generate airborne asbestos fibres. Asbestos is only dangerous if it becomes airborne and inhaled over a period of time, at which time it may contribute to life-threatening, incurable diseases such as Mesothelioma and Asbestosis some of which only reveal themselves years later. It’s frightening to think that innocent children may have been exposed to asbestos fibres and may suffer later on down the line.

With all the asbestos related incidents occurring in Oz as of late, it is important that builders and even the general public are aware of what to do if they are exposed.

If you have been exposed to asbestos, it is important to assess the amount of your exposure. If you were exposed only very briefly, or only at very low levels, your risk of a resulting disease is probably low. However, if you were exposed at high levels or for long periods of time, you may be at increased risk of certain cancers or the other diseases and need to seek medical attention. Smoking may make the consequences of asbestos exposure worse, so quit immediately. Speak to a medical health professional as you may have to go in for regular check-ups because asbestos related diseases take so long to reveal themselves.

Also inform your doctor if you start to have symptoms that might be related to asbestos exposure such as shortness of breath, a new or worsening cough, pain or tightness in the chest, trouble swallowing, or unintended weight loss. See your doctor as soon as possible for any respiratory illness.


White Card Update: Asbestos – Who to Contact in Crisis

With the recent discovery of asbestos on multiple sites across the country, posing a risk to workers and the public including the discovery on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and near a childcare centre in the city, it is useful for people to know what to do when they find asbestos illegally dumped in the surroundings in order to minimise the risk to themselves and their families.

Asbestos is a carcinogen which means that it has cancer causing abilities, something that certain contractors seem to forget.

The use of all forms of asbestos has been banned in Australia since the end of 2003 but often when contractors are called in to homes to undertake renovation and revamping work they may disturb asbestos fibres in already existing asbestos containing materials in the home, often placing the homes occupants and workers on the site at risk. The danger involved with asbestos is the risk airborne asbestos fibres cause when inhaled by humans and animals over a period of time.

Watch this video from WorkSafe which explains more about who to contact if asbestos is discovered at your home or surroundings: