Before you undertake a refurbishment or demolition, it is important that you understand your responsibilities and obligations under the law. According to Safe Work Australia these responsibilities apply to people who are ‘conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBU) as well as demolition contractors or principal contractors. Safe Work also notes that specific duties also apply under the WHS Act to a ‘designer, manufacturer, importer, supplier and installer of plant, substances, or structures’. So, what does this mean? If you are a PCBU or similar contractor seeking to carry out demolition work, it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of all involved in this undertaking. One important way to do this is to engage trusted environmental consultants to carry out a hazardous materials audit. This audit will identify hazardous materials on the job site prior to demolition, and provide recommendations on the removal of these materials or their maintenance. Keep reading to find out four reasons to get a professional hazardous materials audit prior to any refurbishment or demolition work.
The first safety concern that an audit of hazardous materials can identify is the presence of asbestos. Asbestos does not conjure any positive sentiment in the 21st century, and for good reason – asbestos is a highly dangerous substance. It is now well-known that exposure to asbestos has serious implications on human health, including death.
When asbestos is disturbed or damaged – for instance, through demolition – its fibres become exposed and airborne, and they can be inhaled by humans. This inhalation is what can cause many of the critical health issues which can be fatal.
Considering the widespread use of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials in buildings and construction until its banning, it is critical that any asbestos is identified prior to demolition work. This is just one way to help keep your workers safe during the demolition process. If asbestos was identified then it must be removed safely by a licensed asbestos removalist before any demolition or refurbishment work can take place.
Synthetic Mineral Fibres
Synthetic mineral fibres are also known as man-made mineral fibres (MMMF) and are a type of amorphous vitreous fibre. This means that the fibres do not have a clearly defined shape or form, and they are glasslike in appearance. These man-made fibres are extremely prevalent in insulation, and can also often be found in air conditioning ductwork.
The long-term health effects of exposure to synthetic mineral fibres are still unknown, which is part of the reason they are classified as hazardous. However, what is known is that exposure to these fibres can cause skin irritation and severe irritation to the eyes, as well as discomfort in the nasal area, throat, and respiratory tract. Those who are prone to asthma, hay fever or bronchitis may experience increased discomfort, tickling or dryness from exposure to synthetic mineral fibres.
A pre-demolition assessment by an environmental consultant can also reveal the presence of mould, which is another safety hazard. If the structure intended for demolition or refurbishment has mould present, this can have serious negative implications for you and your workers.
Mould comes in many forms and varieties, and depending on the amount and type of mould, it can have very negative implications for human health. Mould exposure can lead to asthma attacks for those with asthma, runny or blocked nose, and irritation of the skin and eyes. It is also rare, but possible, for people exposed to mould to develop a mould infection in the lungs, which can have very serious health implications.
It might surprise you to know that lead is also classified as a hazard of refurbishment and demolition. Lead-based paint, or lead pipes and plumbing actually pose a risk to human health when disturbed through a process like demolition, and that’s why identifying the presence of lead before demolition work commences is essential to safety.
A professional environmental consultant can help to identify the lead in your worksite, as well as provide recommendations on how to keep your workers and yourself safe from exposure during demolition.
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB)
Polychlorinated biphenyls is a term that refers to a branch of chlorinated organic chemical compounds that are now known to be highly carcinogenic to humans. Though PCBs are now a prohibited import, it is still possible for your workers to be exposed to them during the demolition process, for example, through dismantling transformers, capacitors, or through any spills that can occur during such activities.
To mitigate the risks of polychlorinated biphenyls, make sure that you contact an environmental consultant before any demolition or refurbishment work.
Do You Need a Hazardous Materials Audit?
Look no further than Alpha Environmental. We are here to help with your pre-demolition or refurbishment needs, including providing you with a hazardous materials audit. Backed by 23 years of trusted experience, we are proud to offer you professional environmental solutions alongside our excellent customer service.