This Asbestos Awareness Week, 23 – 29 November 2020, SafeWork SA is reminding builders, tradies and home renovators to be asbestos aware as it lurks in more places than you’d think.

It is easy to forget that asbestos is still present in thousands of South Australian homes, but it's a fact that if a house was built or renovated before 1990, there's a good chance it has some asbestos. This can be easily disturbed when doing renovations, home improvements and maintenance.

National Asbestos Awareness Week 2020 reminds us to be asbestos aware before starting any work around the home.

Asbestos is a known carcinogen and inhaling asbestos fibres can cause a number of life-threatening diseases including pleural disease, asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Asbestos-related diseases cause approximately 4,000 deaths a year in Australia.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have increased their love of DIY and are using the extra time at home to do some home improvements and maintenance. But what they may not know is that this work could be putting their health or someone else’s health at risk.

Asbestos materials are still commonly found in bathrooms, laundries, and kitchens as well as behind tiles and under flooring.

You cannot see asbestos fibres – they are invisible to the naked eye. It is for this reason that we have tough asbestos laws in Australia, and why we have a licence scheme for the safe removal of asbestos material.

Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws prohibit work involving asbestos except in specific circumstances where you are required to follow strict safety rules.

In the last 18 months, SafeWork SA has focussed on compliance with asbestos regulations which led to the suspension of four licensed asbestos removalist and one licensed asbestos assessor. SafeWork SA has noticed a trend indicating that asbestos has not been identified or removed prior to commencing the demolition or refurbishment work.

“We are encouraging South Australians to make sure an asbestos check forms part of their DIY checklist before they start their home improvements,” said SafeWork SA Executive Director, Martyn Campbell.

“Research shows that 1 in 5 DIYers have encountered asbestos, but only half sought any kind of professional help to deal with it. If you are unsure if asbestos is present, engage a licensed asbestos assessor and removalist.“

“Just like plumbing and electrical work, asbestos removal – or jobs around the home that might uncover asbestos - are jobs best left to the experts.” Said Mr Campbell.

“This Asbestos Awareness Week we are calling on South Australian home owners to know the health risk, be aware of where asbestos might be found before starting work and call a professional for help.”

“SafeWork SA remind all businesses involved with removal of asbestos of their responsibilities in complying with asbestos regulations”, said Mr Campbell.

Further information on asbestos

Information on asbestos can be found on the South Australian Government asbestos website www.asbestos.sa.gov.au which provides practical information about asbestos, how to identify it, and how to have it safely removed.

For further information and advice on complying with legislative requirements, call SafeWork SA on 1300 365 255. Or speak to one of our friendly Workplace Advisors, who can provide you with WHS information, practical advice and support, and even visit you at your workplace.

You can request a visit from our advisory service who can provide practical advice based on your workplace's industry, size, risk and complexity.

Our advisors can visit your workplace to help you understand your work health and safety responsibilities as well as provide practical support to improve your systems, practices and general approach to safety.