History of asbestos in Australia

History of asbestos in Australia

The history of asbestos in Australia goes back to the 1920 when asbestos building products fueled the post WW1 housing boom. Asbestos building products were marketed at fire proof,durable , easily transported and suitable for all climates because of its thermal qualities.

With usage peaked between 1945 and 1960 after the post WW2 building boom when it featured in almost 20% of homes at the time now the numbers are up around 30% of all homes and 90% of homes built before 1990 according to Safe Work Australia.

Asbestos was widely used in industry for similar reasons especially as it was not susceptible to highly corrosive chemicals and a great insulator for electricity . And could be found in all parts of industry including uses in the auto industry in brake and clutch linings . Asbestos was also widely used in pipes and still today most cities water supply runs through asbestos water pipes . Asbestos was also widely used in power plants like Yallourn in the La Trobe Valley .

Mining of asbestos in Australia started with the discovery of blue asbestos (crocidolite) Wittenoon Western Australia in 1936 and Lang Hancock starts a pick and shovel mine . It wasn’t until 1940 that mining was in full production and in 1943 a processing plant is opened . Around this time there were reports from an asbestos mine in Zeehan in Tasmania that asbestos dust was dangerous and discussions started on how to eliminate it . Later (1944) there were concerns raised at Wittenoon and the dangers of asbestos dust hazards and the need to reduce dust levels .

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In 1946 the first known case of asbestosis is diagnosed in the Wittenoon mine a man named Dignam becomes Australia’s first diagnosed case.From now on right through to today the health effects of asbestos diseases are affecting those who have been exposed to it. It wasn’t until 1951 that safe dust levels were set it wasn’t until 1966 that the Wittenoon mine was closed by the commonwealth health department , due to the discovery of lung cancer,asbestosis and mesothelioma 175 of Wittenoon workers 26 have already died .

In 1968 loose fill asbestos is pumped into by the Djansen and co company homes as insulation and eventually stops in 1979 when the company is known as Mr Fluffy after thousands of homes and commercial buildings have had it installed .

1970 building unions at workplaces across Australia commence industrial action to ban the use of asbestos . 1985 asbestos is banned in the housing and construction industry and the first successful common law claim for compensation as a result of asbestos related disease. 1985 The Wittenoon toll tops 500 and the national research council predicts it will reach 2000.

1989 -1993 the Mr Fluffy houses are cleaned up by the ACT and The Commonwealth . All homes in ACT with visible loose fill asbestos cleaned up . 2001 unions keep the pressure on James Hardie to acknowledge the dangers it put workers in and remind it of its obligations to workers for compensation. 2003 An Australian wide ban on asbestos took effect on 31 st December.

2005 James Hardie and the NSW Government sign a deal providing $4.5 Billion in funding for Australia’s asbestos victims . 2006 a national center for Asbestos related disease is established in Perth . 2009 Safe Work Australia is established as the commonwealth statutory agency to regulate work place health and safety policy’s and acts to guide the sates and to work towards a national safety code.

2100 Workplace Health and Safety act 2011 introduced nationally and model legislation and regulations adopted by most states is adopted . licensing requirements for asbestos removal both A and B class are updated and the introduction of a asbestos removal business license is introduced later on .2011Two important acts are published “how to manage and control asbestos in the work place ” and “how to safely remove asbestos ” these two acts are still in use today .

2012 The High court of Australia finds seven directors of James Hardie Breached its duties by producing misleading reports to the stock exchange. The asbestos safety and eradication agency is established to provide a national focus for asbestos and its effects on the community as a whole .

2014 the ACT government acknowledges there are over 1056 Mr Fluffy homes and contamination is discovered in other country areas . By november a report is released and a state wide buy back and demolition of mr fluffy homes is announced and by 2015 work commences on the buy back and demolition of over 1000 homes .

2015 till present day with imports on the rise from countries that have little or no regulations on the use of Asbestos . Asbestos becomes a ongoing headache for border control major projects like the Perth children’s hospital are found to have asbestos containing materials used in their construction two brands of cars from china are imported into Australia containing asbestos components and asbestos is found in children’s crayons and flooring in prefabricated buildings, cranes , trains and gyprock imported from China .

Asbestos and the motor industry

Asbestos and the motor industry

Asbestos was widely used in the motor industry mainly in the engine as gaskets,clutch linings , in brake pads/shoes and hundreds of other car parts anywhere in older cars . Asbestos was banned totally in Australia in 2004 but many older cars still may have asbestos components in them .

Asbestos was used mainly because of its heat resistance it was especially used in brake pads and clutch plates because it insulated and prevented heat transfer to other components during use.

While the use of crocidolite (blue asbestos) and amosite (brown asbestos) was banned in the 1980’s chrysotile (white asbestos) was not banned till 31 dec 2003 . This ban did not extend to any asbestos containing materials (acm’s) that were already in use this is why it is likely to still be in many older cars.

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There was a scare in 2003 when the Great Wall and Cherry cars were imported from China where asbestos is still used . Border patrol has stepped up its inspections of imported vehicles and as a result asbestos has been found in tractors,barges,trains and cranes and prevented from entering Australia .

Special precautions need to be put in place if you are working on imported or older equipment due to the dangers of asbestos to your health.Asbestos can cause many fatal diseases including mesothelioma , asbestosis and many cancers.

Get It Tested !

Get It Tested !

Why would you get it tested ?
Our advice to anybody and everybody is GET IT TESTED ! Before any renovations on buildings built before 1990, there should be samples of the building linings taken every time . These will establish if asbestos building products were used in the construction or renovation of the home.

You can never be to careful we have had samples from homes built in 1992 come back positive for asbestos. And we removed the lining of an in-ground pool that was built in 1996 that contained asbestos .The use of asbestos in the building and construction industry was banned in 1985 but many people were still using existing stock illegally after this total ban was introduced Australia wide . Don’t even get me started on imports that is a whole other blog.

  1. It could save your life
  2. It could save you thousands of dollars
  1. It could save your life!
    Lets have a look at number 1, it could save your life . Pretty straight forward you would think as we all are aware asbestos is deadly and there is no cure for asbestos related diseases . Having samples taken and tested is the only way to know 100% that the wall you are looking at does not contain asbestos. Samples are cheap and easy to obtain there is really no reason not to sample before you start works in any pre 1990 home in Australia. And if your house has some “dodgey or unorthodox ” building practices used in its construction you need to take samples.

    We recently completed a job and we found that the home was so poorly built and renovated that asbestos was hidden everywhere.Most alarming was the presence of asbestos under gyprock . There is no way you could tell just by looking at the walls . The owners of this home had screwed screws into the walls to hang paintings . Unbeknown to the owners the screws were through the gyprock and through the asbestos sheeting behind it . Other traps were such poor building practices such as just holes knocked in walls to bring pipes and wiring through these walls were asbestos. Just holes in walls concealed behind fittings not only not vermin proof but the debris was in the wall cavity releasing fibres. Remembering you must get testes done at a NATA (National Association of Testing Authorities ) Laboratory and look for this symbol
    testing why its important 280x300 - Get It Tested !
  2. It could save you thousands

If you get a negative result for samples and by negative I mean no asbestos contained in the sample then you can save thousands of dollars if you are stripping out a full house . Seems pretty simple , because it is you just need to be informed.

So everybody repeat after me GET IT TESTED!

testing why its important 1 - Get It Tested !
13 Questions you need to ask asbestos removal companies to keep your family safe when having asbesto

13 Questions you need to ask asbestos removal companies to keep your family safe when having asbesto

There are many reasons why you should trust an experienced asbestos removal company and it is easy to sort the professionals from the cowboys if you follow this quick guide .

  1. There are two categories of asbestos removal as set out by work safe Australia. B class and A class. Coastal Asbestos Removal currently operates under a B class license. Are you qualified to carry out asbestos removal ?
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  3. All asbestos removal companies in Australia are required by law to hold an Asbestos Business License. The qualifications of a B class competency does not allow an individual or an organisation to remove asbestos professionally without a, Business license make sure you see a copy of the business license .Ask can I see a copy of your business licence to remove asbestos ?
  4. Only and approved Hazzard rated vacuum can be used for decontamination of asbestos removal work , these vacuums have to be tested 12 monthly and have a documented maintenance procedures this is a mandatory requirement under law . Ask do you have copies of your regular maintenance log and DOP test results for your Hazard/ asbestos rated vacuum ?
  5. All workers removing asbestos must have completed the A class or B class competency course facilitated by a registered training organisation. Ask are all your guys qualified to remove asbestos ?
  6. In Queensland you must have a asbestos waste transport license to transport any quantity of asbestos that has been removed professionally . Ask can I see a copy of your asbestos transport license number or your waste transport certificate book?
  7. All professional asbestos removal jobs must be inspected and a clearance certificate issued by a inspector qualified under the act for each license class. Ask do you have somebody who is qualified to carry out clearance inspections ?
  8. Asbestos specific public liability is mandatory , most common public liability insurances that tradesmen carry exclude asbestos. Ask can I see a copy of the asbestos specific public liability insurance ? It’s important to call the insurance company to verify asbestos related incidents are covered.
  9. All professional asbestos removal jobs in QLd and NSW must be reported to the regulating body prior to the job starting . Ask can we get a copy of the authorisation from workplace health and safety before work starts ?
  10. All asbestos removal must comply with the ” how to safely remove asbestos code of practice 2011″ . Some of the things covered are Personal Protective Equipment , best removal practice , reporting , training , licensing and training and a copy of the act must be carried at all times . Ask can we see your copy of the how to remove asbestos safely act 2011?
  11. A work method statement and asbestos removal and control plan must be prepared for each and every asbestos removal job no matter how small it is . Ask can we see a copy of your work method statement and asbestos removal and control plan before work starts ?
  12. All asbestos removal ppe must comply with how to remove asbestos safely act 2011. Suits must be compliant and masks must be fit for use and be “fit tested” to the individual asbestos removalist. Ask can I see your fit test and mask inspection log?
  13. All asbestos removal companies must carry out regular safety inspections of jobs and have a safety system . Ask can I see a copy of your safety system ?
  14. Are the asbestos removal company an established business ? Check things like are they active on social media ? Do they have a professional web site ? Do they run from the back of a ute or do they have an office / workshop or both ? You can visit our office at 2/54 Newheath Drive, Arundel Qld 4214 and its easy to find us on social media and the net .