Warning not to use high pressure cleaners on asbestos roofs

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Monday, 29 August, 2022 - 12:30
Policy & legislation

Following two recent incidents and several others in the last year, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland recently issued a repeat warning about the dangers of using high-pressure water cleaners on asbestos roofs.

At worst, the practice could significantly impact the lives of friends, family and neighbours, while those who choose to engage in this dangerous practice also risk big fines and even bigger clean-up bills.

The latest incidents on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane highlight the importance of reinforcing the asbestos safety message, said Brad Geinitz, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland’s chief advisor – occupational health and hygiene.

“Under Queensland laws, you can’t use certain tools and work methods when you’re dealing with asbestos-containing materials as they can generate dangerous airborne fibres,” Geinitz said.

“It’s illegal to use high-pressure water spray equipment on these materials, including asbestos cement roofs, fences and walls.

“High-pressure cleaners destroy the binding matrix of asbestos building products, releasing cement debris and asbestos fibres into the air, resulting in widespread contamination putting people’s health at risk.

“Business owners have a duty to ensure workers and others are not exposed to the risk of airborne asbestos.”

Asbestos is common throughout older homes, built before 1990 – and not just the roofs. Earlier this year, a local handyman was fined $3000 for removing asbestos from a Paddington home without a licence, using a wrecking bar to remove the material in an uncontrolled manner, then illegally disposing of it.

A couple of years earlier, a house painter’s failure to protect his workers and the public from asbestos was labelled disgraceful by a Brisbane magistrate.

The painter was also fined $3,000 for breaches of Queensland’s work safety laws by failing to ensure the health and safety of others and allowing a worker to use a high-pressure water spray on asbestos materials.