In the aftermath of the torrential downpour felt by the east coast of Australia last weekend, it’s important to be aware of potential hazards you may come across in the clean-up process. Homes built prior to 1987 likely contain asbestos in the form of fibro which will typically be found in walls, ceilings, pipes and eaves. Storms and Asbestos are not a match made in heaven due to the often-substantial damage caused to structures by storm damage. It’s important to note that asbestos is only dangerous when the fibres are disturbed. If your ceilings, walls, eaves etc are all still intact, then they are fine. If however they are cracked, flaking or falling apart, then it becomes an issue.
Preparing to Clean Up
As with anything, personal safety must come first. When venturing into storm affected areas, be sure to equip yourself with all the necessary safety gear. In an area that may contain asbestos, it is essential to wear a Disposable P2 Respirator, disposable overalls (e.g. European standards type 5 and type 6) and gum boots or laceless boots (so any asbestos fibres do not get caught in the material).
Some other materials to consider for your clean up:
- Tarpaulin (preferably brand new, however plastic sheeting, bed sheets and curtains are also a great substitute)
- Plastic Bags (200 µm thick) or plastic shopping bags that can be tied up.
- Duct tape
- PVA Glue
- Buckets and a hose
Check the area for any hazards that could be a danger to you. Things such as sharp surfaces, broken power lines, water damaged structures, unstable trees etc.
What You Can Do While You Wait for A Professional
When dealing with asbestos it is best to seek out professional help however, we understand that sometimes following large weather events, these services are very busy. Securing your disturbed asbestos while waiting for the professionals is a great way to reduce the potentially dangerous effects it could have. After applying the necessary Personal Protective Equipment, you can do the following:
Tip 1: Keep Asbestos Containing Debris wet. This stops the dangerous fibres from moving around like they do when dry. DO NOT use a high-pressure hose. Lightly spray with water. The QLD Government recommends using a mixture of 1-part PVA glue to 5 parts water to keep it contained.
Tip 2: Use your tarps to cover and hold the debris. This way any wind or further severe weather will not continue to affect the area. Tape the tarps nice and tightly and use pegs or something heavy to hold it down.
It’s important to remember that asbestos can be very dangerous and the safest way to handle asbestos is to contact a professional with the experience and equipment to do so safely. However, if you are restraining the asbestos until a professional arrives, please do so with caution and take all the recommended safety precautions to keep yourself safe.