Asbestos – When in doubt, find out!

Did you know that asbestos is a naturally occurring substance? It might surprise you to learn that it can actually be found in rock, sediment and soil throughout regional NSW.

While the chances of coming into contact naturally occurring asbestos (NOA) are slim, workers and residents in affected areas should still know what to look for and how to manage it.

So what do you need to do?

NOA is found in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes, and can be difficult to spot. The SafeWork website includes a handy map to let you know whether you’re in a low, medium or high risk region. If you’re conducting work in an affected area, take the following precautions:

  • Limit dust-generating work and avoid handling rocks and soil that could contain NOA.
  • Consider the weather. Try not to do work that disturbs the ground on windy days, or if conditions are dry and dusty.
  • Wet down areas if necessary, particularly when planting, seeding and digging.
  • If you think you’ve found NOA, cover with clean soil, rock or other material where practical.
  • If you control a workplace that is affected, you should have an asbestos management plan in place. This should include providing PPE to any workers who might be disturbing the ground and training your workers.
  • Consider calling in a licensed asbestos assessor or an occupational hygienist to test the site for NOA.

The Heads of Asbestos Coordination authorities have also developed a video for people living and working in regional areas that outlines what to look for and what you can do.

Remember, when in doubt, find out. If you suspect you might be living or working in a NOA area, visit asbestosawareness.com.au or call 1800 Asbestos (1800 272 378).

Image of tape to cordon off asbestos site

Assistance for loose-fill asbestos houses

In December 2014 the NSW Government announced its response to the discovery of loose-fill asbestos in NSW homes. To demonstrate government’s commitment to helping affected NSW residents, an assistance package was announced that includes free property testing for owners residing in 26 identified local government areas.

Free ceiling insulation tests are being provided for homeowners in the identified local government areas (LGA) to identify all loose-fill asbestos in residential premises. These areas have been identified through the analysis of archival government records.

Owners of homes built before 1980 in these local government areas can contact Service NSW where you can register online to have your property tested and assessed for the material. Free testing is available until August 2015.

For homes tested positive, free independent technical assessments advising on and confirm risk controls are being offered, as is a make safe assistance package.

Concerned residential property owners are encouraged to call 13 77 88 or visit nsw.gov.au/loosefillasbestos to register for the free testing program and to find out more about the assistance available.

In addition to the assistance package, government also announced the formation of a dedicated loose-fill asbestos taskforce. The taskforce is led by former Deputy Commissioner of the NSW Police Force, Dave Owens, and includes representatives from a number of NSW Government agencies including NSW Ministry of Health, Office of Local Government, Environmental Protection Authority and WorkCover NSW.

The taskforce will be responsible for developing a comprehensive action plan for a government purchase/demolition scheme for homes with loose-fill asbestos insulation, including identifying risk mitigation strategies, costings and implementation and operational aspects, in consultation with affected residents.

To find out more, call Service NSW on 13 77 88 or visit nsw.gov.au/loosefillasbestos