Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral consisting of many small fibres. The innate qualities that asbestos possesses, being inflammable, strong and affordable, made it a very popular choice as a building material for a very long time.

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Buildings and homes that were constructed or renovated before 2000 are likely to contain asbestos. The locations can vary for a commercial building or a residential home.

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The dangers of asbestos come from breathing in its microscopic airborne fibres, which can easily be released when you disturb the material in its friable state. Asbestos fibres make their way into the respiratory system and settle in the lungs, where they can cause inflammation and scarring (asbestosis), leading to shortness of breath, coughing, and chest pains. Some cases can develop into lung cancer or mesothelioma, a cancer of the linings of the lungs and other organs. Over 80 per cent of mesothelioma cases are caused by exposure to asbestos fibres and, to this day, asbestos is the single greatest cause of death from work-related diseases in New Zealand.

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As of April 2018, PCBUs (persons conducting a business or undertaking) have a legal obligation to ensure there is an asbestos management plan prepared for their workplace. It is also the duty of the PCBU that this management plan is made available to any worker, visitor, or other person who may come into contact with asbestos in the workplace. Heavy fines are imposed should it be found that these requirements are not met.

ACMs which can easily be reduced to powder by hand are known as friable asbestos, and is the form of asbestos that presents the greatest risk to PCBUs or homeowners. As the fibres are dangerous once they become airborne, friable asbestos needs immediate attention to ensure no residents or employees breathe them in.

Some ACMs in your building may not be presenting a danger if they are both left undisturbed and in good condition. However, it is important to know the location and condition of all asbestos within your building, to minimise the risk of damage during renovation or demolition. Identifying asbestos in a building will also allow you to monitor its condition over time – and provide a record to any potential buyers or new tenants. Under the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016, building owners are now required by law to have an asbestos management plan in place for their building or workplace to show where asbestos is likely to be found.

As a worker who may come into contact with asbestos, it is your duty to ensure the risk of any airborne-fibre contamination is minimised. This starts with asking for – and reading – the asbestos management plan at the workplace. This will provide details on the location, amount, and risk level of all asbestos materials that may present a risk to the safety of yourself and others.

If you are undertaking sampling or removal work, it is also your own responsibility to ensure that you are meeting the required level of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the job you are undertaking. As a minimum, PPE must include: a respiratory mask (P2 or higher depending on the material to be removed), overalls provide complete protection against asbestos dust, covered non-laced footwear, and disposable gloves. Further information on PPE can be found at Worksafe.

  1. Before the survey begins an asbestos surveyor will contact you to arrange a convenient time;
  2. Upon arrival, the asbestos surveyor will identify themselves and explain the asbestos survey process;
  3. An initial visual inspection will be conducted to identify the materials suspected of containing asbestos;
  4. The surveyor will conduct a full digital audit of the suspected materials during the asbestos survey;
  5. If any sampling is required it will be undertaken according to WorkSafe NZ Guidelines
  6. After completion of the survey, a full asbestos report will be supplied