It's essential that you take all the necessary precautions to protect yourself and others when dealing with asbestos. These steps outline ways to assess the risk, ensure you have adequate training and understanding of how minimise any exposure to asbestos through adequate preparation of the work area.
A job specific risk assessment must be conducted prior to commencing any possible asbestos work, and include:
assessing the work to be performed
understanding to what degree there is the likelihood of disturbing asbestos containing material (ACM)
inspecting the asbestos register and a decision made as to whether work can be done without disturbing ACM e.g. instead of drilling a hole for wiring consider re-routing the wiring through non-asbestos material
inspecting and evaluating the material to determine if it is ACM. If a sample analysis has not been conducted, assume that the material is ACM
assessing the ACM's condition as to whether it is in sound condition or deteriorating and liable to damage
assessing implementation of job-specific control measures including:
maintaining a safe distance between barriers and the work area
assessing the types and level of personal protective equipment (PPE) required to manage the risk of exposure to airborne asbestos fibres
considering other hazards that may impact on the work (e.g. live electric cables in wall cavity, working at heights, working on brittle roofs, confined spaces, heat stress, vermin or pests).
Training of workers
Person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must ensure that workers have received training in and aware of:
in situ identification of asbestos-containing materials, including their common locations
identification of appropriate safe work procedures when working with ACM
ensure that the asbestos register has been sighted to verify the presence of ACM, or ensure that a competent person has identified ACM in the work area
ensure the work area access permit has been completed
prepare a written work procedure for the activity (unless a standard safe work procedure applies)
determine the number of workers required on site (always perform asbestos-related work with the lowest number of workers possible in the asbestos work area)
determine the need for a second experienced worker to assist with the works (e.g. shadow vacuuming or the need for a worker to remain on duty outside the asbestos work area)
advise the site occupants of the intended works
ensure there is adequate lighting for the work area
establish a buffer zone to separate the work area, by closing all doors to the work area or using plastic curtaining, barricades, signage, and relevant instruction to workers and others
erect all safety signage
cover the floor with two layers of the 200 μm PVC plastic sheeting and secure with duct tape
remove all loose furniture and items from the work area or cover with a 200 um plastic cover and secure with duct tape
have all equipment ready in the work area (to minimise movement in and out of the area)
identify potential electrical hazards e.g. cabling in wall cavity
shut down air conditioning and vent systems (if applicable); seal ducts and vents with 200 μm PVC plastic sheeting and duct tape
control exposure to dust by using an H rated industrial vacuum cleaner that meets AS/NZS 60335.2.69:2003, with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter that conforms to AS4260-1997, and is suitable-for-the-task vacuum tools or at a minimum, 'wet' and 'thickened substance' methods for dust control when drilling into any ACM (unless an electrical hazard exists).
Before you commence, do a final check:
change into PPE and remove all jewellery/watches before entering the asbestos work area and continue to wear all the PPE identified in the risk assessment when working within the boundary of the asbestos work area
ensure the workers carrying out the work activity have conducted a fit test on the masks and respirators
activate the site access permit or authority, if required, and insure it is signed by the person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) or site owner
only perform asbestos-related work when the workplace is unoccupied and when it is outside 'normal' facility operating hours, where possible
leave clean clothing outside the asbestos work area (in the buffer zone) until personal decontamination is complete
restrict access by non-essential workers.
A worker laying out two layers of the 200 μm PVC plastic sheeting and taping.
PVC plastic sheeting secured to the floor with duct tape.
Personal protective equipment
A range of personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn by workers to protect them from exposure to airborne asbestos fibres, including:
P2 disposable mask or a half-face respirator
disposable coveralls suitable to the task , for example, European Standards Type 5 and Type 6
The PCBU must ensure that the workers involved in working with asbestos are clean-shaven. To ensure that the respirator has an adequate seal to the face, and will protect the workers from inhaling fibres workers with facial hair should wear a fully face respirator.
Workers must completely fasten the coveralls, place the hood over their head and avoid wearing any jewellery to reduce the risk of asbestos residue contamination.