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Asbestos is the chief cause of mesothelioma and has been linked with other asbestos-related diseases, such as lung cancer and asbestosis. Asbestos has been known to cause mesothelioma in blue-collar workers such as engineers, field workers, and construction workers. Therefore, you must take safety protocols and guidelines for industrial asbestos removal seriously if you work in these industries.

This article considers safety protocols and guidelines that relate to industrial asbestos removal. You can read up on the occupational risk of asbestos exposure, relevant control measures, and the importance of safety protocols for industrial asbestos removal.

The post also discusses health and safety precautions prior to asbestos removal, safety protocols for high-risk asbestos removal, work health and safety responsibilities, and asbestos safety resources and information sources.

Occupational Asbestos Exposure and Control

If you work in the construction, mining, demolition, or manufacturing industries, you may need proper training on the possible risk of asbestos exposure. Here are some specific examples of workers who may face a reasonable chance of exposure.

Power plants

As a power plant worker, you may be exposed to various asbestos products, including asbestos cement and insulation.

Cement plants

Those who have worked in cement plants may have faced average or high levels of asbestos exposure. This may have occurred when producing asbestos cement blocks or other asbestos cement products.

Aircraft mechanics

You may have been exposed to asbestos by working as a public or private sector aircraft mechanic. This exposure may have risen from asbestos insulation, heat panels, and electrical equipment.

Examples of Asbestos Control Measures

Read on for some examples of control measures you may implement to limit the risks of asbestos exposure.

Use of protective equipment

You could ensure the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as respiratory protection. This can protect workers from respirable crystalline silica and other potential airborne contaminants.

Health monitoring

You may implement a medical surveillance program that monitors workers who are already exposed to airborne contaminants.

Administrative controls

Safe work procedures to protect your workers from exposure to asbestos include appropriate work practices, emergency planning, and proper clean-up procedures.

Safety Protocols for Industrial Asbestos Removal

You and everyone involved in an industrial asbestos removal process must be careful. If you do not follow the proper safety protocols and guidelines, you may potentially damage the material and unintentionally come in contact with asbestos. This leads to possible asbestos exposure and the attendant asbestos-related diseases.

The difficulty distinguishing asbestos material by mere appearance also bolsters the need for safety protocols. Meanwhile, an important guideline is to hire asbestos removal specialists for the process.

Safety Precautions During Asbestos Removal

Appropriate safety precautions are necessary during the preparation process for asbestos removal. This will help reduce any risk of exposure to asbestos fibres.

  • Perform job-specific risk assessments before beginning any asbestos work.
  • You must understand the degree of the chances of disturbing ACMs.
  • Review asbestos management plans and asbestos registers and decide on the possibility of working without disturbing ACMs. Perhaps you can re-route wires instead of drilling holes.
  • Confirm the proper implementation of control measures, such as the level of PPE required to manage the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres.
  • Work with safety committees and consider hazards such as live electric cables, working in confined spaces like ceiling spaces, elevating work platforms, and working at heights.
  • Ensure proper records throughout the process. Complete work area entry permits. The site owner or PCBU should sign the site access permit.

Safety Protocols for Asbestos Removal

Here are some safe work procedures you may follow and what consequences may occur due to non-compliance.

Follow proper sample testing procedures

Your first instinct after suspecting the presence of industrial asbestos may be to get a sample of the alleged asbestos material tested. However, you risk the possibility of increasing the danger if you disturb the material or do not get the sample properly. For instance, the material may crumble, releasing airborne asbestos fibres.

Identifying and testing asbestos-containing materials

Identifying asbestos by mere outward appearance is not a sure thing. You may still be unsure whether an industrial or commercial building contains asbestos. A licensed asbestos assessor or removalist can give you advice.

However, the best way to confirm the presence of asbestos is by testing samples. It is also best to test suspected asbestos samples in a NATA-accredited laboratory (National Association of Testing Authorities accredited laboratory).

A licensed asbestos removal contractor can help you identify asbestos, test samples, removal, and disposal of asbestos. They have experience in identifying naturally occurring asbestos and other forms of asbestos.

Handling remodelling projects with care

Your remodelling or home renovation projects may involve working with shingles, ceilings, building materials, and tile floors. These are areas where asbestos may be present. Activities like abrasive blasting, water blasting, sawing, or drilling may damage and disturb possible asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). As such, you need to handle these areas with care.

Using personal protective equipment (PPE)

Asbestos removal processes require the use of Personal Protective Equipment. Examples of PPE include respiratory protection and protective clothing. You should not take them for granted, as asbestos exposure can generally lead to serious health risks and consequences.

Hiring licensed asbestos removalists for asbestos removal

A licensed asbestos removalist must do all cases of friable asbestos removal and over 10sqm of non-friable asbestos removal. Safework NSW recommends always using a licensed asbestos removalist for any non-friable asbestos removal work.

This is because disturbing asbestos can pose health and safety risks. By identifying asbestos more easily and safely, workers can use the right safety protocols to remove it.

While it is not illegal to handle certain cases of asbestos removal yourself, doing DIY asbestos removal is risky. You may not know the extent of damage and the level of risk involved.

As such, getting help from experienced licensed asbestos removalists is advisable. A strong recommendation is to only use a Class A licensed asbestos removal contractor to remove severely damaged asbestos materials.

Ensure that your licensed asbestos removalists have the proper risk work licence. At the end, you can expect to receive clearance certificates confirming the complete removal of ACMs. You may also confirm that no dust or debris remains in the area after the asbestos removal process.

Safety Guidelines for Professional Removalists

Non-friable asbestos-containing materials include roofing, gaskets, vinyl, and asbestos cement. You must take certain precautions to reduce the risks of exposure to hazardous asbestos fibres. Any professional who removes asbestos cement or other non-friable asbestos can use the following guidelines.

  • Keep the area well-ventilated.
  • Equip workers with air-supplied ventilators that prevent inhalation of contaminated air.
  • Use a HEPA filter vacuum or dampen the dust to avoid disrupting the material.
  • Always wear protective equipment, even if exposure risk is relatively lower.
  • Always ensure proper and safe disposal of asbestos waste or material.
  • Do not use a high-pressure cleaner on asbestos products or when cleaning asbestos cement roofs.
  • Do not remove asbestos cement from their bags or containers without wetting, enclosing, or ventilating them. This will prevent the release of airborne fibres.

Safety Protocols for High-Risk Asbestos Removal

Asbestos removal processes sometimes involve repair and maintenance operations on both friable and non-friable asbestos-containing materials. Examples of such processes include electrical conduit installation in walls with asbestos insulation and repair work on broken pipes with asbestos wrapping.

Here are some safety protocols to observe when doing such work:

  • Place clear warning signs in the area to warn people of asbestos hazards.
  • Cover floors with drop and polyethene sheeting. Remember to dispose of them subsequently.
  • Shut down electrical items in wet methods for electrical safety and to avoid incidents.
  • Take measures such as setting up barriers so ACM dust does not spread.
  • Implement isolation methods to drill, chip, break, or cut thermal insulations. For example, you may place drop cloths and glove bag systems in the area.

Workplace Health and Safety Responsibilities

Here are some responsibilities you should know as a Person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU).

Safety awareness training

If you are a PCBU, you are responsible for providing asbestos awareness training to workers. This includes training on the proper safe work procedures for working with ACMs, the use of respirators, decontamination procedures, relevant codes of practices, and the use of safety data sheets. Similarly, you must update yourself on asbestos safety alerts, such as those from the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency.

Arranging for asbestos removal

Here are some considerations you should consider as you make arrangements for industrial asbestos removal.

Types of asbestos removal licences

You should know the classes of asbestos licence holders and use the right one for the type of asbestos removal you wish to perform.

  • Class A licence holders have been authorised to remove friable asbestos materials and all asbestos-containing materials.
  • Class B licence holders can remove any amount of non-friable asbestos-containing materials.

Sending notification of removal

Some states require you to notify the proper Workplace Health and Safety Authority before you start the removal process.

Setting up air monitoring

Remember to check if air monitoring is needed for the asbestos removal process. This will help ensure that airborne asbestos fibres do not exceed safe limits. This will help you take prompt action to prevent or control asbestos exposure. As a PCBU, you must distribute the air monitoring results to your workers, health and safety representatives, and relevant persons in the workplace.

Using licensed asbestos assessors

Experienced licensed asbestos assessors can help with asbestos surveys, asbestos assessments, air monitoring, and clearance inspections.

Asbestos Safety Resources and Information

Asbestos management and removal

  • Your local government may have an Environmental Health Services section for professional advice on asbestos removal.
  • Asbestos management Handbook for Commercial and Non-Residential Properties: Asbestos awareness

Asbestos regulations

  • The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and its associated regulations contain information on regulations on the use and management of asbestos.
  • For a framework on managing asbestos materials, air monitoring, and health monitoring for workers, refer to the well-known Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011.

Codes of practice

  • You can get more information on safety precautions licensed asbestos removalists use from the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety’s Code of Practice – How to remove asbestos safely.
  • The Code of Practice: How to Manage and Control Asbestos in the Workplace is a source of resources such as a sample asbestos register and other information.

Asbestos cement products

Information resources for safely removing small amounts of intact asbestos cement products include the following:

  • kNOw asbestos – a free e­learning site.
  • Asbestos safety for homeowners and renovators – Be Safe.

Asbestos disposal

Environment protection laws specify that asbestos waste must be transported and disposed of safely and securely. Only use licensed landfill sites and minor or significant hazard facilities that comply with work health and safety laws and local environment protection laws. You can check for the nearest licensed hazard facility.

Hire Professionals for Industrial Asbestos Removal

This guide on industrial asbestos removal: safety protocols and guidelines has considered health and safety precautions prior to asbestos removal, work health and safety responsibilities, safety awareness training, and asbestos safety resources and information sources. Human health and environmental reasons exist for getting professional help from licensed asbestos removal contractors instead of DIY asbestos removal.

It would help if you were sure that the removal process is safe. You can also be sure that professional asbestos removalists will follow all Federal, state, and local government compliance codes and regulations.