Asbestos what?

Many houses, especially in older areas have asbestos roofs, gutters, floors and so on, which owners don’t realise. And when renovating or cleaning their roofs they haven’t the foggiest that the effects can be harmful to themselves, contractors, workers and even their neighbours. On top of this there are certain regulations that by law one must adhere to.

Asbestos fibres are microscopic but highly dangerous and could have far-reaching effects if not dealt with properly. These fibres could be lodged in the air when cleaning an asbestos roof for example, or when asbestos sheeting or other components are cut up during renovation.

Deadly effects

The fibres could easily be inhaled by workers, cleaners, builders and the like, if they are not wearing the required protective gear.

This most likely to occur where a building has asbestos roofing, gutters, floors or partitions which have been in place for some time.

Once lodged in the lungs asbestos fibres cause asbestosis which is incurable and fatal. And what’s more is the sufferer may live for several years before he sees the first symptoms and initially he may feel no effects at all.

Who to use?

The Department of Labour has set down preventative laws which need to be put in place. These laws stipulate that wherever this work is in progress, strict regulations concerning the handling of asbestos need to be adhered to.

Sadly, only a handful of firms in South Africa today are registered asbestos contractors.

The contractor and homeowner are responsible for compliance with asbestos regulations. Failure can lead to a R81 000 fine or up to 12 months in prison. The owner of the property must also ensure that the contractor is medically fit to handle asbestos material.

Thus its best to ensure that the contractors you are going to use are aware of the following requirements set out by the Occupational Health and Safety Act No.85 of 1993.

Be safe first

Here are some of the requirements which you would or more importantly your contractor would need to follow. You can go to the Department of Labour's website for the full details.

  • The provincial director must be notified in writing when one is planning on working with asbestos.
  • Cutting and drilling must be done using a wet process and a slow-speed cutter.
  • Dry brushing, scraping or sanding isn't allowed, only high-pressure water jetting (needs a filtered hood).
  • Contaminated water must be filtered.
  • Control measures to be implemented to ensure the exposure limit of 0.2 f/ml of air isn't exceeded.
  • A 24-hour standing time is needed after a fungicidal solution has been applied, after which a brush and low-pressure water hose must be used to remove fungus.
  • Asbestos sheets must be painted or sealed.

Article by: Thamar Houliston -