Bathroom Asbestos Removal

Asbestos is commonly found in bathroom fittings because it is water resistant. Most of the time, it will be found in small quantities, so the nature of the removal work is usually classified as small scale.

This work can be done by a removalist without a license, as long as the area is less than 10 square meters according to the Safe Work Australia Code of Practice, and the asbestos is non-friable. They can also remove Asbestos Containing Debris (ACD) that is not more than a minor contamination and the area should be 10 square meters or less of non-friable asbestos. A class B license holder can also remove only non-friable asbestos, as long as the area is less than the said 10 square meters.

The minor contamination factsheet by Safe Work Australia describes ACD as dust that has settled within a workplace and is assumed to be containing asbestos. Examples include dust that has accidentally come off a wall or ceiling during removal, accumulated in a pipe, on a horizontal surface covered by an asbestos roof or on the roof gutter.

Determining whether contamination is minor involves assessing the time it would take to clean up, the complexity of the work being undertaken and the size of the contaminated area among other factors. Areas of minor contamination include, holes drilled into walls or ceilings with Asbestos Containing Material and an electrical box with an ACM board mounted on it.

Even without a license, the person undertaking the removal, workers especially, must be trained in identifying and handling asbestos or ACD and classifying it as friable or non-friable. A course on asbestos awareness or the non-friable unit of competency can suffice as adequate training. Safety methods still have to be adhered to during the removal and replacement. A combination of the dry and wet method could be used, the dry method used where there are live wires, sockets or water heaters powered by electricity. These must be de-energized if they cannot be removed.

Safety Measures according to the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission.
  1. All workers must wear positive pressure air supplied respirators that cover the whole face. The air supply must have a backup in-case it runs out. If it does, the workers must exit immediately.
  2. Before using the dry method, permission has to be sought from the relevant state or Operational Health Standard Authority (OHS).
  3. The bathroom must be enclosed by a thick plastic sheeting and a negative pressure unit used inside the working area.
  4. The procedure should be such that the ACM is cut in small sections for the least disturbance, so asbestos fibers do not float into the air.
  5. Manually operated tools should be preferred over power tools like high speed drills and decontaminated afterwards.
  6. A vacuum cleaner may be used to suck any airborne fibers.
  7. The waste must be placed in properly labeled containers.
  8. The gear worn by the remover must also be disposed of or clothes laundered in approved dry cleaners with the capacity to clean asbestos contaminated clothes.
For a small area like the bathroom, air monitoring is not mandatory afterwards but may recommended at the discretion of the assessor.
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