Asbestos is tricky stuff. It’s in thousands of buildings around New Zealand - underneath tiles, behind walls, or in ceilings inside a range of materials.
Unfortunately, if it’s present in your home or place of work you may not know and it could be damaging your health every day. If you suspect there’s asbestos in your building or if you’re not sure, it’s essential that you hire an asbestos testing and removal expert to ensure the building is safe. Make sure you get the job done right by asking these seven key questions before getting started.
1. What asbestos removal licence do you hold?
To remove asbestos from a building in New Zealand, generally a Worksafe licence is required. Class-A licence holders can remove:
Friable asbestos (asbestos that is crumbling, breaking or in poor condition) or Asbestos-containing material (ACM).
Asbestos-contaminated dust or debris (ACD).
Non-friable asbestos or ACM.
Those with a Class B license can only remove non-friable asbestos and any dust that is created during removal. Unlicensed persons are permitted to remove asbestos but only if it’s in good condition and under 10 sqm in total area.
2. Do you have any qualifications or references from past clients?
There are no mandatory qualifications required to perform asbestos testing or surveying. However, it’s worth asking whichever professional you approach if they’re accredited under the International Organisation for Standardisation and if they hold any other relevant qualifications.
It’s also a good idea to ask for references from previous clients of an asbestos testing professional before you engage them. A legitimate company will be happy to provide these details and it will give you a chance to ensure you’re hiring someone who can do the job well.
3. Which type of asbestos survey is right for me?
There are three main types of asbestos survey:
Asbestos management surveys - Ideal for most building owners who suspect there is asbestos in their home and do not plan to renovate.
Renovation/demolition survey - If you’re aware of asbestos in your home, if it was constructed before 1 January, 2000 or if you’re unsure, you are legally required to perform an asbestos renovation/demolition survey if you plan to refurbish or demolish your building.
Contamination surveys - if you suspect your home has been contaminated with asbestos this is the right survey for you.
Make sure you understand the difference between each survey before work starts, and ask the asbestos professional if you’re not sure. In some cases, a combination of all three survey types may be required.
4. What are the limitations of the survey and what can I do?
Ask your surveyor if they anticipate any challenges or issues that could limit the scope and/or effectiveness of the survey. These might include limited access to certain areas where asbestos testing needs to be carried out or health and safety issues when accessing tight spaces to perform intrusive testing. While your asbestos surveyor should be able to manage these themselves, it’s worth asking if you can help remove any limitations to ensure you get the most out of the survey.
5. How long will I have to vacate the building while removal is underway?
Some asbestos removal jobs can be performed without the owner even leaving the building. Depending on the complexity of the removal and the extent of the asbestos in the structure, most other jobs are usually completed in between one and five days. This should be one of the first questions you ask when arranging for asbestos removal, so that you can make other accommodation arrangements as soon as possible if needed.
6. What will your report contain?
Make sure you understand exactly what’s in the asbestos survey before you commit to purchasing it. To help you understand what to expect, asbestos-management reports generally contain the following sections:
An executive summary.
An introduction describing the work carried out.
Information about the building and the survey.
The results of the survey and all material assessment results.
Findings and conclusion of the survey, including recommended action to minimise and eliminate the hazard posed by asbestos.
Bulk analysis results if applicable.
Renovation and demolition surveys may include more in-depth information so it’s worth getting your asbestos testing professional to run you through what to expect before they get started.
7. Is asbestos removal the only option?
The safest way to manage asbestos is usually to remove it completely. However, in some cases it may be just as safe and far more cost-effective to encapsulate the asbestos using specialist materials such as epoxies, polyurethanes, or polyureas. These will either be sprayed or stuck over asbestos or ACMs to create a seal and protect it from damage, extend its life, and reduce any risk of fibre release.
The key to successfully managing and removing asbestos is to work with qualified and skilled professionals, and to communicate throughout the entire process. If you have any questions at all, or if you suspect there is asbestos in your building - get in contact with the industry-leading asbestos management team at Chemcare Auckland.
Read more - What to do when you find asbestos in your home
If you need help with asbestos testing or removal, contact Chemcare. We'd be more than happy to help!