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How To Properly Handle Asbestos Soil Contamination

In case an asbestos removal project is poorly handled or waste is not properly disposed, the asbestos may end up contaminating your soil. However, this may also occur simply due to weathering of and damage to non-friable products (asbestos containing material in solid form). Such asbestos soil contamination must be properly handled to curb the potential health risks.

Requirements In Handling Contaminated Soil
Safe Work Australia provides a detailed guideline on the proper handling of contaminated soil. Firstly, an independent licensed asbestos assessor should carry out a comprehensive risk assessment, in order to determine appropriate control measures and removal strategies.

Unlike removal projects within buildings, cases of soil contamination would require assessment by several agencies, including the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), local governments and Public Health. You should also refer to the National Environmental Protection Measure (NEPM) for proper guidance on appropriate assessment and remediation strategies in contaminated sites.

Who Is Qualified To Handle the Removal Project?
The qualifications necessary for handling soil contamination are quite similar to qualifications required in removal projects within buildings. The least amount of contamination, which involves a maximum of 10 m2 of non-friable asbestos, may be handled by someone who doesn't have a license. However, if you're not sure whether the contamination is more or less than 10 m2, you should get a removalist with a class A or B license.

Class A or B licenses would be required for removal of non-friable products (asbestos containing material in powder form) and amounts of non-friable products greater than 10 m2. A class B license applies in the case of large amounts of non-friable products, while a class A license applies in cases of friable products.

How To Handle Soil Contamination
If you have managerial control at the workplace, you must cease work immediately once you suspect the soil to contain asbestos. You should then engage the services of a competent person to take samples for analysis so that your suspicions may be confirmed or refuted.

Once contamination has been confirmed, the appropriate control measures must be implemented so as to minimize risks of airborne asbestos. The first step to take will be preparing an appropriate management plan and setting applicable boundaries, based on the evaluation of an independent licensed assessor. You should also avoid any disturbance of the soil to prevent dispersal of asbestos into the air.

Before commencing removal work, the site should be isolated and secured using barriers and signs. This will prevent unwarranted intrusion, which could put such intruders at risk of exposure to asbestos. To further prevent airborne asbestos, dust suppression techniques using water or other wetting agents should be used.

During the removal process, all workers must be supplied with personal protective equipment (PPE). Moreover, the appropriate air monitoring and sampling procedures should be used. A removal project should involve effective decontamination procedures to further safeguard workers' health. Even after the removal project, personnel within the workplace should be made aware of potential hazards related to airborne asbestos exposure, and how to apply safe work practices.
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