How is asbestos removed?

Construction and demolition are dangerous activities and asbestos removal particularly so. Advanced Deconstruction trains its staff to exceed the highest industry standards so they are able to identify and manage risks before they become a problem.

We like to compare asbestos removal to driving a car. Driving an old Volvo, at 100 km/h without a license, and without a seat belt in a 60 km/h zone ignoring all the road signs and traffic lights is very dangerous. However, with appropriate training (a license),the right safety equipment (a seat belt and a well maintained vehicle), and by following the road rules we can reduce all those risks so that it becomes a much safer activity.

This is exactly what we do during asbestos removal. We have the right Personal Protection Equipment (respirators, disposable overalls and gloves);we have the training (all our staff have the new VET qualifications to remove friable asbestos as well as regular training courses, refreshers, and on-the-job skill development); our safety procedures and systems ensure that we are aware of and follow all the rules and regulations that apply to asbestos removal.

All of these factors change a very dangerous activity, into a safely managed and risk controlled activity.

Asbestos Removal Procedures

When doing asbestos removal there are some basic principles that apply to all tasks. By following these and then tailoring specific solutions to risks identified in your job we are able to make sure that we protect our health and yours.

The 5 stages of an Asbestos Removal Job

  1. Preparation
  2. Removal
  3. Decontamination
  4. Clearance
  5. Hand over

1. Preparation

The work before asbestos removal starts is some of the most important. Before we arrive on site safety documentation is prepared, the government is notified of the work, and we give you a notification letter to pass out to your neighbours. Our staff start their day with a safety checklist and review of your project before they touch any tools.

Once these vital safety reminders and checks have been completed they can begin preparing the site. This includes establishing an asbestos work area (which allows us to control the movement of dust and air so that we can prevent cross-contamination) and removing any obstructions that prevent us from removing the asbestos easily.

The asbestos work area is the main location of the asbestos removal. In this area, we use plastic sheeting to cover floors, windows, doorways and other openings. This prevents dust from moving outside our work area and contaminating clean areas. By keeping this area as small as possible it saves us time and saves you money.

Common obstructions to removing asbestos include cabinetry, skirting boards, architraves, and cornices. We establish the plastic sheets to control dust movement before removing obstructions, as some of them are stubborn and can damage the asbestos sheeting during their removal. We also don’t recommend removing obstructions yourself for the same reason. It doesn’t take long for us to remove them and it’s much safer when we do it.

2. Removal

The removal of asbestos is the simplest part of our work. The main priority during removal is to limit the release of asbestos fibres. We do this by removing sheets whole wherever possible, and we keep the sheets wet with a fine mist of water or glue. Once sheets are removed they are either wrapped in plastic packs at the source of removal or where it is safe to do so they are wet misted and carried along a clearly defined transit route to a plastic lined asbestos skip or cartage truck.

3. Decontamination

Decontamination is the most time consuming and important part of any asbestos removal. Most of our staff’s training is focused on decontamination activities. The methods we use have been monitored and approved by independent occupational hygienists and we regularly have air-monitoring devices used to demonstrate exactly how clean our work areas are once decontamination is finished.

Our decontamination process has four overlapping methods that reduce the risk of human error and ensures that the asbestos work area is safe to re-occupy once we are finished.

These four methods are:
1) Wire brushing & vacuum detailing (with asbestos rated HEPA vacuum cleaners).
2) Wet wiping of all dust catching surfaces.
3) Clearance inspection.
4) PVA particle binder spray coating of the enclosure

Decontamination is about being thorough and methodical. Typically we will start by removing any fixings that were holding the asbestos in place (IE nails) then we will begin vacuum cleaning from the highest point in the work area and work our way down to ground level. Our experience in this area means we are able to identify hidden or difficult to reach locations that asbestos debris and fibres can settle. By taking the time to find these locations we make sure there is no asbestos left in the work area for someone to stumble across during a renovation or demolition.

Once vacuum cleaning has been completed the entire area is wet wiped to ensure that all dust catching surfaces are clean to touch. A clearance inspection is carried out and then the entire work area/enclosure is coated with a fine mist of PVA glue. This glue spray method means that any unseen fibres which may be stuck in timber, or buried in nail holes are sealed permanently, preventing them from getting into the air.

4. Clearance

Clearance inspections act as quality assurance and are vital to safe and legal asbestos removal. Many asbestos removal firms will not mention or will try to avoid clearance inspections and certificates. They are perceived by many in the industry as time consuming and unnecessary. This could not be further from the truth. AD has been conducting clearance inspections and issuing clearances certificates for all our work for many years. With the recent revision of the Code of Practice, other companies have now been forced to do the same.

A clearance inspection is carried out by a competent person (either a qualified Asbestos Removal Supervisor or a Licensed Asbestos Assessor) who was independent of the asbestos removal work (IE someone who was not involved in the preparation, removal or decontamination stages of the job). The process involves inspecting the asbestos work area to make sure there is no visible dust or debris (of any kind, not just asbestos).

A clearance inspection is typically carried out with a torch and a small screw driver. The inspector is followed by Advanced Deconstruction’s staff who will fix any problems identified as the inspection is conducted. Once the inspector is satisfied that the work area is safe and clean with no visible dust or debris he will instruct Advanced Deconstruction’s staff to begin the glue spray process. It is vital that the inspection occurs prior to the work area being sprayed with glue. Once the glue is sprayed no further cleaning can be carried out, and if there is still dust and debris in the enclosure the glue with push that dust up into the air. Glue is sprayed on any surface that was in direct contact with the asbestos in order to seal as a final quality control measure.

5. Hand over

Once the glue has been sprayed the work area can be deconstructed. Plastic drop sheets are rolled up carefully and disposed of as asbestos waste, and a final vacuum detail and wet wipe of the floor to clean up any overspray from the glue and leave the area as clean it can be for hand over. All dust barriers and door seals are left in place until this final vacuum detailing is completed, as they protect the clean areas of the site from cross contamination they are the last control measure to be removed.

If at any stage during the hand over phase we discover asbestos debris or residues we undertake thorough decontamination again as well as another Clearance Inspection.

When all of the dust barriers, signage, and door seals have been dismantled the area is ready for hand over to the client and is safe to re-occupy.