Asbestos Fire Risks

Over the past 24 hours some of the most devastating bushfires to hit the state have ravaged many parts of NSW. At present, over 100 fires are still burning across the state with hundreds of homes destroyed. Once some of the initial confusion surrounding the devastation and the chaos has subsided, something that can often be overlooked is the affect which bushfires can have upon asbestos.

 

During a fire with exposure of temperatures of over 1000oC, building material that has been exposed to asbestos will typically crack or splinter into smaller pieces. This spalling occurs due to a build up of pressure inside the material, causing flakes to detach themselves, reflecting overall structural weakness. Thus, asbestos which was originally bonded has the potential to become friable. As a result, this means that asbestos fibres are more easily released into the air.

It is important to realise that extreme caution must be taken as asbestos dust and fibres have the potential to present a health risk during and after a fire if not properly managed. While the presence of asbestos in ash and rubble generally does not pose a health risk in and of itself, airborne asbestos fibres can pose a risk if inhaled. In order to minimise this, the use of water or foam to control a fire helps prevent fibres from becoming airborne.

Asbestos Clean Up Process After Fire

Once the fire has subsided and the clean-up process can be commenced, the following considerations should be taken into account:

  • Asbestos fibres released from broken or disintegrated sheeting may be present in the dust and ash of fire-damaged buildings. Care should be taken when moving burnt material to minimise the generation of dust. If burnt material needs to be moved it should be dampened first to reduce dust
  • Asbestos sheets that are severely damaged or reduced to ash are likely to be friable, whereas asbestos that is intact or has suffered smoke damage only is likely to be classified as bonded.
  • Ensure the site is kept damp at all times, particularly while debris is being removed.
  • An occupational hygienist should undertake a site assessment and determine an appropriate clean-up program.
  • Access to the immediate site should be limited to those involved in the clean-up. They are required to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (i.e. suitable respirator or dust mask and disposable coveralls). At completion, all personal protective equipment is to be disposed of as asbestos waste.

With members of our own staff presently threatened by fires, we understand the trauma and stress associated with the pandemonium of bushfire. If you are in need of an occupational hygienist to conduct a site assessment and determine appropriate clean-up, ADE is able to respond with a high degree of care, efficiency and expertise, resulting in one less thing which you need to worry about.

NSW

A.D. Envirotech Australia Pty Ltd – Head Office
Unit 6/7 Millennium Ct.,
Silverwater, NSW, 2128, Australia
(02) 8541 7214
info@adenvirotech.com.au

A.D. Envirotech Australia Pty Ltd – Laboratory
4/10-11 Millennium Ct
Silverwater, NSW, 2128, Australia
(02) 9648 6669

QLD

A. D. Envirotech Australia Pty Ltd (ADE)
PO Box 288
Upper Coomera LPO,
QLD, 4209 Australia
(07) 5519 4610
info@adenvirotech.com.au

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