Asbestos was once a popular material with the Australian construction industry, and experts believe that you can find asbestos in around a third of homes in Australia. Asbestos poses a problem for renovators and business owners, who may find the material in many parts of a building and its surrounds. Some renovators choose to deal with asbestos removal themselves, but if you don't follow certain regulations, you could find yourself in trouble with the law. If you're considering a DIY asbestos removal project in Queensland, consider the five following scenarios that could land you in hot water.
Removing friable asbestos without a license
Asbestos products fall into two categories. Bonded (or non-friable) asbestos products feature a bonding compound like cement, mixed with asbestos fibres. These products generally contain no more than 15 percent asbestos, but the end material is still fire-proof and durable. Friable asbestos products have a higher content of the dangerous material (often up to 100 percent) and tend to come in soft, loose forms that builders once used for jobs including loft insulation.
Friable asbestos products present a larger health hazard than bonded asbestos materials because the fibres can become airborne more easily. As such, Queensland law closely restricts who can carry out removal projects that involve friable asbestos.
In Queensland, only a licenced removalist can deal with friable asbestos. A professional must take extensive precautions when working with the material, according to the How to Safely Remove Asbestos Code of Practice. This Code covers every part of the process, from staff training through to disposal of the hazardous waste.
Tackling a job that's too large
Queensland law also restricts the amount of non-friable asbestos that somebody without a licence can deal with. According to the regulations, home renovators can only tackle removal where the asbestos covers an area of ten square metres or less. For any area larger than this, you will need a licenced operator.
In some cases, it's easy to decide if your project meets the criteria. For example, if you need to remove a bonded asbestos shed roof, you can easily measure up the surface area. If you need to work on an area of contaminated soil, the task is more difficult. You cannot confirm how far the soil contamination spreads, and you may also need to consider a mixture of friable and non-friable material.
Putting asbestos waste in a garbage bin
In Queensland, the 2011 Waste Reduction and Recycling Act sets out how homeowners and businesses should dispose of waste. During a renovation project, homeowners must deal with asbestos waste material correctly. You cannot get rid of harmful asbestos waste in your household garbage bin, and you can't just dump the material in a landfill site, either.
The Queensland authorities can take legal action against anyone they find dumping asbestos illegally. If you're found guilty, you could face a fine of at least $113,850. Contact your local authority to find out where you can legally dispose of asbestos waste.
Transporting too much asbestos waste to a landfill site
Queensland law also limits the amount of asbestos waste you can legally remove from your property. If you're dealing with bonded asbestos waste at home, the law allows you to transport up to 250 kilos of waste material without an approved certificate. If you try to move a larger amount of waste, you could face a penalty.
If you're clearing waste from a commercial property, you must always contact the local authority to carry out a special assessment called an Environmentally Relevant Activity. This ERA covers any commercial activity involving removal and transportation of asbestos waster, irrespective of the quantity.
Not having an asbestos register for your small business
Small business owners must also take certain precautions when they know there are asbestos-containing materials (ACM) on the premises. In some cases, you may decide that it's better to leave the asbestos undisturbed, or you may decide to remove only certain parts of the asbestos. In either case, you must have an asbestos register.
The asbestos register must clearly indicate where the ACM exist on the premises. The business owner must also have a written asbestos management plan, which you must keep up-to-date and review at least every five years. You don't need a register if you have removed all the ACM from the building, or the building was constructed after 31 December 1989.
Removing asbestos from your property is a dangerous process, and it's important to handle hazardous materials according to the law. If you are uncertain about the steps you must legally take, contact a specialist asbestos removal company like Asbestos Extraction & Containment for more advice.