Quick Guide To Asbestos Removal Methods

Asbestos Removal Procedures

As many as 75 different types of jobs have high chances of exposing workers to asbestos, which is now known to cause cancer. In the United States alone, over 30% of mesothelioma cases were reported in military officers and this indicates how badly the army had been exposed to it. Apart from the army, those working in the construction industry are also exposed to this cancer-causing mineral. Be it plumbers, electricians, pipe fitters, they are the ones who are highly likely to be effected. The exposure to asbestos in the shipbuilding and power industries has also been alarmingly high. Since most of these industries are dominated by men, almost more than 80% of the reported cases have been those involving males.  Some think the highest risk category would be asbestos removalists themselves, but as they are educated on the health risks they tend to take extra care with safety procedures. In this article we will explore the 3 main asbestos removal methods and look at safety and licence requirements.

What is asbestos and why was it so popular?

There was a time when asbestos was known as the “miracle mineral”. Considering the fact that it consisted of fine durable fibers and can withstand heat, fire and several chemicals as well, it certainly deserved that title.

These six naturally occurring minerals have similar characteristics. They tend to have no smell or taste and normally, cannot be detected by the naked human eye. Instead, you need to carry out tests in the laboratory to confirm its presence.

It is because of this precise reason that it becomes difficult to determine the amount of exposure that one has to asbestos.

Being exposed to any one of these minerals can lead to high chances of cancer of the lining of the lungs along with other lung problems.

What should you do in case you identify asbestos?

If you happen to discover asbestos in any material in your home, you don’t have to start panicking. If the material is in a good condition and shows no signs of wear and tear, then you must leave it undisturbed and check it from time to time. Some examples include the internal asbestos cement sheet walls.

However, if you are planning on working with materials that contain asbestos, give the following a thought:

  • Can it be left undisturbed?
  • Are there any alternatives to disturbing the material containing asbestos?
  • Will you have to hire a professional asbestos removalist for the purpose?
  • Can you comply with the legal rules and regulations that govern the removal of asbestos?

If you have no choice but to work with asbestos, the following points must be remembered:

  1. Avoid using high-pressure hoses, powerful electronic equipments, compressed air and sanding disks.
  2. While working with asbestos, ensure that the material is completely wet – to minimize the asbestos fibers from getting dispelled into the air.
  3. You must work in well-ventilated areas.
  4. Don’t let the materials containing asbestos lie around where they can be disturbed or broken.

Not sure if its asbestos? Get it tested

If you are unsure of whether any material contains asbestos or not, you can always get it tested by a NATA (National Association of Testing Authorities) accredited laboratory. YUou can search for a lab near you here.

These NATA accredited laboratories will analyze the building materials for asbestos and give you all the information that you are looking out for including advice on how to take and send a sample for testing. It will all involve a small fee though.

There are several asbestos testing services in and around New South Wales. A quick tun through Google will throw up several options for you to choose from.

Licenses required for handling and removing asbestos

There are 2 kinds of licenses:

1. Class A:

Can remove high-risk friable asbestos as well as non-friable asbestos. They can also remove asbestos contaminated dust or debris (ACD).

2. Class B

Class B license holders can only be involved in removing non-friable asbestos and ACD.

3. Asbestos Assessor

This allows the licence holder to eprform air monitoring, clearance inspections and issuing clearance certificates for class A asbestos removals projects.

Removal of asbestos without a license

In some exceptional cases, the removal of asbestos may be carried out by someone who does not have a license in asbestos removal. However, a few requirements have to be fulfilled.

  • The asbestos is non-friable.
  • The asbestos containing material doesn’t go beyond the area of 10 square meters.
  • The time taken to remove the asbestos must be less than one hour over a period of seven days. This includes the time spent by the employer as well as the employees.
  • It has to be done as safely as possible and following all the rules that apply to it.

If you are intersted in learning more about removal without a licence check out the DIY asbestos removal information from Asbestos Awareness Australia

Asbestos Removal Methods

Procedures For Removing Asbestos

Wearing the right safety gear

  • The overalls must be disposable and slightly bigger in size so that it doesn’t tear off at any place.
  • The outfit must have hoods and cuffs so that loose cuffs can be fixed with tape and the hood can be worn over respirator straps.
  • The overalls on the legs must be worn over the footwear. Tucking them inside the footwear is definitely not a good idea.
  • The uniform must not be taken home or be re-used.
  • In the case of high levels of asbestos, the workers must wear disposable gloves that must be disposed after single use.
  • Latex gloves must be powder free.
  • In the absence of latex gloves, disposable nitrile gloves must be used.
  • Safety footwear must be worn by all the workers who are involved in the removal of asbestos.
  • Shoes must be laceless since laces and eyelets can be difficult to clean.
  • All items must be kept within the enclosed area.
  • The clothing and footwear should not be shared for hygienic purposes.
  • Once the work is done, the shoes must be stored in double-sealed bags for the next use, but not for any other reason.
  • There must be proper and safe storage places for storing the footwear when not in use.

Asbestos Safety Precautions

Informing the Regulator

It is a requirementsto notify the regulator in writing at least five days before the work commences. The required notification information is as follows.

  1. The name, address, Australian Business Number, license number and other contact details of the of the asbestos removalist who holds a license for the same.
  2. The name and other necessary details of the independent supervisor who will overlook the work.
  3. The name of the person who has requested for the removal of asbestos and his contact details.
  4. The name and details of the person who is in control of the workplace or takes care of the management of the workplace.
  5. Since the clearance certificate will be handed over post air monitoring by an independent assessor, his details also have to be provided.
  6. The exact location of the workplace in which the asbestos removal will take place.
  7. If an enclosure is necessary and whether it is friable asbestos that will be removed.
  8. The approximate amount of asbestos that will be removed.
  9. The start date and the estimated date of completion.
  10.  The total number of workers who will be engaged in this task and their professional qualification and experience.

Apart from the regulator, neighbours who are likely to be affectedshould also be notified in advance.

The 3 Removal Methods

There are three most commonly used methods, when it comes to removing asbestos. They are:

  1. Wet spray method
  2. Saturation and water injection method
  3. Dry method

Let’s have a slightly deeper look at these methods:

1. Wet spray method

This is one of the most commonly used and preferred methods when it comes to removing asbestos from structures as well as plants. In this method, the material containing asbestos is sprayed on with a low pressure water supply to prevent the asbestos fibers from being released in to the air. To achieve this, a garden hose is attached to a pistol grip, or the force can even be achieved by using a pressurized vessel.

In this method of removal, the water is consistently sprayed all over the material from which the asbestos is to be removed. It must be wet throughout the entire procedure. To facilitate a quicker wetting of the surface, the detergent may be added to the water. The force of the spray needs to be controlled, and a consistent low pressure needs to be maintained.

2. Saturation and water injection method

For thick asbestos the wet spray method is not enough to wet it completely. In such cases, the saturation and water injection method is used. Here the watersolution is directly injected in to the asbestos. Workers should be trained to handle the entire process and equipment.

There is an applicator with an injection head that has numerous holes on the side or outlets through which the water is injected into the material from which the asbestos needs to be removed.

To ensure that the asbestos gets wet fast enough, the outer part has to be porous enough to allow the water to get through in such a way that the asbestos gets saturated enough but doesn’t get washed away. It is important for the asbestos to get soaked completely before the removal can begin. This will depend on the thickness of the asbestos, the amount of water used and the ease of access in reaching the asbestos.

3. The dry method

This method is generally not preferred as it increases the chances of asbestos fibers of being released into the air. However, sometimes, this is the only method that can be used as the materials that need to be worked upon can get damaged by water, such as electrical conductors.

The following precations should be adhered to.

  • The area in which the non-friable asbestos removal will take place must be enclosed.
  • In the case of friable asbestos, the area has to be enclosed with a plastic sheeting and the workers involved should have the full-face positive pressure supplied air-line respirators.
  • If the asbestos is friable as well as non-friable, then it has to be removed slowly, from tiny, pre-determined areas with as little disturbance as possible.
  • The disposal of the waste material has to be such that it limits the release of asbestos fibers in the air.

Removing Asbestos from different parts of the building:

Different methods are adopted when it comes to removing asbestos from different parts of the building.

Floor covering (tiles)

  • Water, or water based solvents, are injected into the floor tiles, so that they can loosen. After soaking them for a while, the tiles can be removed using scrapers or chisels that are electronically powered.
  • Dry ice is placed on the tiles and the immense cold causes the tiles to shrink and detach from the ground.
  • Infra-red machines may also be used to heat the floor which loosens the tiles and the adhesives, so that they can be removed.
  • Shot blasters is a method that can only be used on wet floor tiles. In this method, a machine is used that continuously hits the tiles with a barrage of small pellets and continuously cleans the pellets along with the pulverized tiles.


When the preliminary examination suggests that the roofs contain asbestos and will be disturbed during the renovation of demolition, then several methods are available for the professional asbestos realists to choose from.

Different tools like ice chippers, sledge hammers, axes, and roof cutting saws may be used to remove the roofing materials that contain asbestos. When you use roof-cutting saws for the removal process, it can be dangerous, as they release asbestos fibers into the air.

Cement products containing asbestos

Asbestos is found in cement products, such as pipes and such insulation. If during the renovation or the demolition process, it has high chances of getting disturbed and releasing asbestos fibers in the air, then it has to be removed.

If the workers carefully remove the cement, without causing much debris and significant damage, then it can be disposed off with the rest of the debris. However, if equipments like cranes, hydraulic excavators and explosion techniques are used to remove the cement products, then it can prove to be extremely dangerous as the asbestos fibers will be released in to the air, so more stringent methods of safety need to be followed.

Site Clearance

As soon as a licensed person carries out the task of asbestos removal from a workplace, necessary warning signs and barricades must be put up to warn the people and to delineate the area. This will severely limit the access that people will have to this hazardous area.

The person who is responsible for the management of the workplace in which the asbestos removal is being carried out and the licensed asbestos removalist have to ensure that only the following people can access the area under renovation:

  1. People who are carrying out the work.
  2. People who are associated with the removal work.
  3. People who are given permission by the law and/or several acts to be in that area.

Those who have access to this area will have to follow the rules and instructions that have been specified by the person who is removing the asbestos.

Air monitoring

Air monitoring involves the sampling of the asbestos fibre in the air to decide the extent of exposure to asbestos and whether the measures implemented have been successful or not. The air monitoring levels will depend on several factors such as the kind of asbestos being removed, if it is an enclosure then whether it is within a building or outside and the amount of asbestos that you’re dealing with.

  • It is mandatory for the removal of friable asbestos.
  • If the non-friable asbestos exceeds 10 square meters, then the independent supervisor might consider it to be essential.
  • If the asbestos removal is happening in a public place, or in close proximity to one, then air monitoring is essential.
  • Air monitoring must be carried out to determine to what extent workers are being exposed to airborne asbestos, if there are reasonable causes to believe that exposure standard has been crossed.


Australia has banned the import of asbestos inside the country. However, in spite of all the measures being implemented by the government, goods containing asbestos are being detected by the authorities in the border areas and around the construction sites.

Since asbestos is a highly dangerous mineral, it is important to educate people about the hazards associated with it and what they need to do if they have, unknowingly imported asbestos within the country.

To learn more you can download the Code of Practice PDF on How To Safely Remove Asbestos by Safework NSW.

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