Bushfires increase danger of asbestos

NSW is currently experiencing one of the worst fire seasons in 10 years which has damaged or destroyed properties across the state. 

In response, WorkCover NSW is waiving the five-day asbestos removal work notification timeframe to allow immediate clean-up of asbestos debris.

WorkCover NSW Work Health and Safety Division general manager John Watson said under usual circumstances, the legislation required a five-day waiting period before asbestos was removed.

“This five-day timeframe allows for WorkCover to review the adequacy of safety systems and site arrangements”, Mr Watson said.

However WorkCover is fast-tracking assessments to ensure fire damaged asbestos can be removed as soon as possible.

“Residents are being urged to seek out information on the potential risks of being exposed to asbestos and how to safely manage asbestos when cleaning up after the fire”, he said.

“As firefighters and other emergency services workers assess the damage, and residents begin to repair or rebuild, we want to make people aware of the danger of asbestos.

“We must ensure that all sections of the community are aware of the dangers of asbestos and that asbestos debris is safely managed and the health of the community is protected.

“Residents should be aware that fire-affected homes may contain fire damaged asbestos materials which need to be safely removed.”

Before tackling the clean-up: 

1. Avoid disturbing asbestos materials and keep any asbestos debris wet until it can be safely removed. 

2. The Asbestos Awareness website www.asbestosawareness.com.au has information on the types of the asbestos materials commonly found in homes. 

3. Be aware of asbestos materials in your surroundings. A person conducting demolition of residential premises must ensure that all asbestos that this likely to be disturbed by the demolition is identified and safely removed. 

4. Notify WorkCover of any emergency demolition work involving asbestos before the work is commenced.

5. Use only a qualified asbestos removalist licensed by WorkCover to ensure asbestos is safely and properly removed. 

6. Fire damaged asbestos materials can only be cleaned up by holders of a Class A asbestos removal licence.  

7. Air monitoring, clearance inspections must be carried out by an asbestos assessor licensed by WorkCover. 

8. Asbestos removal licence holders can be found on the WorkCover website or by contacting WorkCover on 13 10 50.  

9. All fire damaged asbestos material to be removed needs to be notified to WorkCover by the removalist.  

The five-day notification timeframe will be waived for premises affected by fire.

For more information on safely managing asbestos, contact WorkCover on 13 10 50 or visit our website at www.workcover.nsw.gov.au

WorkCover warns residents of asbestos dangers after bushfires