Asbestos remains a serious threat to electrical contractors as it is still present in many homes and structures today.
WorkSafe Victoria has launched its own asbestos awareness campaign together with partners the Victorian Government, EPA Victoria and the Department of Health.The website asbestos.vic.gov.au provides information to tradespeople such as electricians who undertake home renovation or maintenance work. Asbestos-bearing material can be tricky to identify in homes or businesses, and its existence may not be known before operations commence. Inhaling asbestos fibres is a serious health risk and can lead to diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma. Many tradespeople are unaware they are working on, or disturbing, materials containing asbestos.
The threat of asbestos to electricians
Electricians face the greatest risk from asbestos when they are repairing existing wiring, they may encounter asbestos materials in the insulation or as part of the building framework. There is also a danger when interacting with heating units, generators, turbines and hot water tanks. Asbestos was a common insulator in these older products.The job also can involve removing felted asbestos insulation around old wiring, or inside breaker boxes. Older arc chutes containing asbestos plastic molding compound were used in circuit breakers before the mid-1980s.
What can electricians do if they encounter asbestos?
Employers and electricians can undertake limited removal work under certain conditions. For example, the material must be non-friable, not exceed 10 square metres and the removal not last longer than one hour over a week. It is up to employers to provide training, protective equipment and information on how to dispose of asbestos properly. There are trained asbestos removalists who can come to the site and assess the asbestos risk. If you are unsure of the type of asbestos or the danger that it poses, all electricians should be taken off the site and not returned until the all clear is given. As the number of older Australian homes being renovated or re-wired continues to climb, asbestos will be a constant threat for the foreseeable future. For more information on identifying and dealing with asbestos visit asbestos.vic.gov.au.
This article was featured in our quarterly Middy's MAG #13 Feb - Apr 2016 Edition. Read Latest Issue