Living with Fibro – Asbestos Alert

Does your fibro contain asbestos?

The most accurate way to find out if your fibro contains asbestos is for experienced people to inspect and test it. You can’t tell by looking at it. Only fibro products made before 1987 contain asbestos. In NSW for example, the use of asbestos in fibro sheets was discontinued by 1982, in corrugated sheets by 1984 and in all other products by 1986.

What are the risks?

Asbestos fibres can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. This does not automatically mean that your health is at risk if you find that your home or workplace is made from fibro products.

Studies show that these products, if left undisturbed, are not a significant health risk provided the material is in reasonable condition. If the asbestos fibres remain firmly bound in a solid cement matrix, generally you do not need to remove the fibro or even coat it.

Health problems usually occur when people are unaware of the hazards of working with fibro. The important point is to always work so there’s minimal release of dust or small particles from asbestos material. Use commonsense, follow safety guidelines and working with fibro products should not be a problem.

Safe work procedures
You may not need a licensed contractor to remove fibro from houses, but you should be familiar with asbestos regulations. Check what these are with your local council, there is also a very informative kit available from the department of Workplace Safety in QLD designed specifically for the home owner.

As an initial risk and hazard assessment read the safety checklist below and always seek expert advice before you start working:

  • Do not use power tools. Asbestos fibres can be released if power tools are used for anything other than the removal of screws.
  • Do not waterblast or scrub with a stiff broom. It is illegal to waterblast asbestos cement products. If the material has been accidentally waterblasted, or has suddenly deteriorated in some way, you will need to call a licensed asbestos removal contractor.
  • Wet gently with water if you need to. If hand sanding fibro sheets before painting, wet gently with water to minimise any release of fibres. Remember do not waterblast. Be careful when on roofs, as asbestos sheets are brittle and slippery when wet.
  • Avoid drilling around the roof area. Do not drill holes through eaves, flues or vents. Never cut into a fibro sheet. Instead remove the entire sheet and replace it with a non-asbestos product.
  • Let people know. Talk it over with those who may be affected by the removal and disposal of your fibro, such as neighbours.
  • Cover up. You should wear disposable coveralls and an appropriate mask if you are in the working area. Make sure your mask has two straps to hold it firmly in place. Don’t use masks that only have one.
  • Don’t drop fibro sheets. Remove asbestos sheets carefully. Lower, don’t drop them, to the ground.
  • Stack and wrap. Stack sheets carefully on ground sheets, wrap into bundles for disposal or place directly into disposable bins that have been prelined with some form of sturdy sheeting. Cover before disposal.
  • No skidding. When stacking sheets, do not skid one sheet over another as this will cause release of fibres.
  • Remove immediately. Do not leave sheets lying about where they may be further broken or crushed by people or traffic. Remove all asbestos waste as soon as you can.
  • Clean up everything. Put used disposable overalls and masks in bags for removal with other asbestos wastes.

Safe disposal:

  • Dispose all asbestos waste promptly.
  • Wet all asbestos waste and wrap in plastic or put in lined bins or vehicles. Do not put asbestos waste in domestic garbage bins and compactors. Remove all asbestos waste from a site as soon as possible.
  • Dispose of asbestos waste in a manner and at a site approved by your local council or the appropriate disposal authority. Seek Help and advice. It is illegal to re-use asbestos sheets.

About the Author

Safety Concepts is an online resource providing up to date insights and covering issues in the field of Workplace Safety.

Comments (2)

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  1. Alan Mitchell says:

    Every place I contacted to take away my old bathroom lining, both council and contractors, wanted me to BREAK the fibro sheets up into manageable sized bits – recommended size 300 x 300mm or smaller – before wrapping in plastic.
    I had already taken great care to remove the sheets whole and not disturb the asbestos fibres(old fibro with visible blue fibres on the reverse side that looked very much like fine pieces of blue polypropoline rope).
    Is this really the accepted practice?

  2. Arthur says:

    My home was built in 1989 (SA) , i was woundering if the eaves surrounding the house would have asbestos in them. How can i find out??

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