Asbestos

Epic Environmental specialises in the assessment, identification and management of asbestos risks. We also provide appropriate technical services and oversight to manage asbestos, alongside associated risks.

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Our team specialises in the assessment, identification and management of asbestos risks; providing appropriate technical services and oversight to manage asbestos and associated risks. These services are provided to a range of industries including property development, commercial and industrial redevelopment, resources and energy and civil construction.

Under Work Health and Safety Regulation, an independent Licensed Asbestos Assessor (LAA) is required to carry out specific functions, associated with asbestos removal work including:

  • Asbestos air monitoring, including:
    • control monitoring to determine the effectiveness of the control measures;
    • exposure monitoring to determine exposure to airborne asbestos fibres; and
    • clearance monitoring to determine the level of airborne asbestos fibres following asbestos removal work;
  • Clearance Inspections; and
  • Issuing of Asbestos Clearance Certificates.

At Epic, we have a qualified and skilled ‘Licensed Asbestos Assessor’, who provides asbestos assessment services; along with advice on the risks associated with asbestos materials, reducing exposure to asbestos in the workplace and the management of asbestos removal works. Luke Amies (LAA – A122717), has over 12 years of experience, servicing the construction and development industry; he is also available to discuss any specific asbestos matters.

Asbestos in Soil

The presence of asbestos in soil is associated with:

  • debris from former structures that contained asbestos materials and were inappropriately demolished;
  • asbestos contaminated soil or waste having been deposited or buried on the site; and
  • naturally occurring asbestos deposits.

Asbestos within the soil only becomes a threat to health if sufficient quantities of asbestos fibres are airborne and inhaled. Asbestos usually arises discretely within an impacted area and will not degrade over time to form less harmful materials (i.e. it is persistent). The risk associated with asbestos in soil, is a result of its use, quantity, and nature of the soil or impacted area.

The potential presence of asbestos in soil, generally causes concern within communities and as such, management of potential risks are typically required.

Managing risks associated with asbestos involves:

  • identifying Asbestos and Asbestos Containing Material;
  • assessing the risk of exposure to airborne asbestos;
  • eliminating or minimising the risks by implementing control measures; and
  • reviewing control measures to ensure they are effective.

Categories of Asbestos in Soil

The Guidelines for the Assessment, Remediation and Management of Asbestos-Contaminated Sites in Western Australia 2009, and the National Environmental Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Amendment Measure No. 1 2013 (NEPM), categorises asbestos in soil into four groups:

  1. Asbestos Containing Material (ACM):
    ACM comprise materials which are in sound condition, although possibly broken or fragmented; and the asbestos is bound in a matrix. Undisturbed, ACM usually represents a low human health risk.
    ACM in soil is the most common form of asbestos site contamination, due to:

    • its historical widespread use as uncharacterised fill material for site landscaping;
    • dumping of as debris on vacant or development sites; and
    • inadequate removal and disposal of asbestos products during building demolitions.
  2. Fibrous Asbestos (FA)
    FA encompasses friable asbestos material; such as severely weathered ACM, and loose fibrous material such as insulation products. FA is defined as asbestos material that is in a degraded condition, such that it can be broken or crumbled by hand pressure. FA in soil is often the result of manufacture or distribution associated with asbestos products, severe weathering or damage associated with ACM contamination.
  3. Asbestos Fines (AF)
    AF includes free fibres of asbestos, small fibre bundles and small ACM fragments. AF in soil is often associated with mining, manufacture or distribution associated with asbestos products, severe weathering or damage associated with ACM contamination.
  4. Naturally Occurring Asbestos (NOA)
    NOA is not considered contamination, however, due to the serious health concerns associated with asbestos, affected areas should be effectively managed. NOA is usually encountered during geological sampling and mining operations.

Health Risks of Asbestos in Soil

The NEPM summaries health risks associated with asbestos in soil as follows:

‘Asbestos in soil only poses a risk to human health when asbestos fibres are made airborne and inhaled. Bonded ACM in sound condition represents a low human health risk. However, both FA and AF materials have the potential to generate, or be associated with, free asbestos fibres. As a result, FA and AF must be carefully managed to prevent the release of asbestos fibres into the air.

It is an inappropriate response to declare a site a human health risk on the basis of the presence of bonded ACM alone. However, if the bonded material is damaged or crumbling (that is, it has become friable), it may represent a significant human health risk if disturbed and fibres are made airborne.

The site-specific assessment of sites contaminated with asbestos in soil should be aimed at describing the nature and quantity of asbestos present in sufficient detail to enable a risk management plan to be developed for the current or proposed land use. The management plan should address potential scenarios for the relevant land use(s) whereby asbestos fibres may become airborne and pose a human health risk.’

Management of Risks

Managing risks associated with asbestos typically involves:

  • identifying asbestos and ACM;
  • assessing the risk of exposure to airborne asbestos;
  • eliminating or minimizing the risks by implementing control measures; and
  • reviewing control measures to ensure they are effective.

The implementation of control measures should be based on the following hierarchy of controls:

  • eliminating the risk (i.e. remediation or removing the asbestos);
  • substituting the risk, isolating the risk or applying engineering controls (i.e. burial, enclosing, encapsulation or sealing);
  • using administrative controls (i.e. safe work practices); and
  • using PPE.

Additionally, one or more of these controls may be required to adequately manage and control asbestos or ACM.

Epic Environmental specialises in the assessment, identification and management of asbestos risks; providing appropriate technical services and oversight to manage asbestos and associated risks. This is provided to a range of industries including property development, commercial and industrial redevelopment, resources and energy and civil construction.

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