How to test and manage loose-fill asbestos insulation in strata properties
Testing and managing loose-fill asbestos insulation in strata properties is essential for protecting your safety
Loose-fill asbestos insulation in strata properties poses health hazards to the community. While many properties containing dangerous loose-fill asbestos insulation have been managed effectively, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory have not seen the end of this dangerous building product. Geoffrey Rutledge, head of ACT’s Asbestos Response Taskforce, stated that an unknown number of properties could still contain loose-fill asbestos.
If you suspect any loose-fill asbestos in your strata property, your owners corporation must seek professional assistance to test and manage the situation.Here’s what you should know about asbestos loose-fill insulation in strata properties, so you can take the necessary steps to protect yourself, your family and your property:
- What loose-fill asbestos insulation is
- The associated risks
- How loose-fill asbestos insulation in strata properties is recorded
- The testing and registration process for loose-fill asbestos insulation in strata properties
- How to correctly display signage about loose-fill asbestos insulation in strata properties
- What to do if you think your property has loose-fill asbestos insulation but is not registered
What loose-fill asbestos insulation is
Asbestos is the name given to a group of naturally occurring mineral fibres. Due to its strong, economical and fire-resistant properties, asbestos was used to produce many building products and materials. One of those products was loose-fill asbestos insulation. Finding loose-fill asbestos insulation in strata properties isn’t uncommon, especially when it comes to older buildings.
“Strata insurance is compulsory in Australia and needs to cover the building for full replacement value. Therefore, there’s an argument that a strata insurance policy that specifically excludes parts of the building such as cladding could put them at risk of not meeting legislative requirements.”
Thanks to this, there are still effective insurance policies for strata properties on the market.
The associated risks
Many asbestos products are bonded, or “nonfriable,” and are not harmful to human health as long as they remain undisturbed. However, loose-fill asbestos is “friable” — a raw form of asbestos that has been crushed into a fine state. This product poses health risks as it can easily be released into the air and be inhaled. Asbestos inhalation can cause deadly illnesses like mesothelioma and lung cancer, sometimes many years after exposure has occurred.
Loose-fill asbestos was a product that made its way into some homes and residential properties in the 60s and 70s. Mr Fluffy was the primary Australian vendor of loose-fill asbestos Insulation in strata properties as well as stand-alone homes.
How loose-fill asbestos insulation in strata properties is recorded
Under the Home Building Act 1989, the New South Wales Government maintains the Loose-fill Asbestos Insulation (LFAR) Register, a record of loose-fill asbestos insulation in strata properties and other residential properties. Homeowners, tradespeople, local councils and others can use this register to determine if a property has loose-fill asbestos by searching a street address.
The testing and registration process for loose-fill asbestos insulation in strata properties
Loose-fill asbestos insulation in strata properties and other residential settings is challenging to identify without the proper training and qualifications. This is why, under the Home Building Regulation 2014, only a licenced asbestos assessor can investigate a property and remove a sample to be analysed by a laboratory accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA).
How to correctly display signage about loose-fill asbestos insulation in strata properties
The Home Building Act 1989 also states that the strata property added to the register must install a warning sign about the loose-fill asbestos. This warning sign must be displayed at the property’s main switchboard to alert any emergency services workers, tradespeople or maintenance workers who work at the property.
What to do if you think your property has loose-fill asbestos insulation but is not registered
It is possible many properties containing loose-fill asbestos insulation have not been identified and registered. If you suspect your property may contain this dangerous product, you should consider engaging a licenced asbestos assessor to investigate.
New South Wales: what happens if you have loose-fill asbestos insulation in your strata property?
Should a test confirm the presence of loose-fill asbestos insulation in strata properties, Services
NSW should be contacted immediately to find out about the options available.
If loose-fill asbestos insulation is found, landlords are required by law to advise tenants within 14 days of the property being listed on the LFIA Register.
Simply removing loose-fill asbestos has not been effective at eliminating ongoing hazards. Therefore, demolition may become the recommended course of action.
Government financial assistance
The first New South Wales Government initiative to assist homeowners and owners corporations in identifying and removing their loose-fill asbestos in strata properties involved free government testing. While this program has now concluded, alternative supports are still available.
Currently, the New South Wales Government is running its Voluntary Purchase and Demolition Program. If eligible, the New South Wales Government can purchase your property and land, or purchase just your property so you retain ownership of the land.
Financial assistance may also be available for relocation.
Eligibility for government assistance is evaluated case-by-case. To check your eligibility, contact Service NSW on 13 77 88 or email email@example.com.
Builders, contractors and inspectors working on pre-1980 homes need to use the Loose-fill Asbestos Insulation Register to check if loose-fill asbestos insulation is present before quoting for, or commencing, work.
Such workers should never enter sub-floor, wall or roof cavities of an affected property unless they are a Class A licensed asbestos removalist or a licensed asbestos assessor. However, workers may conduct works on these areas under the direct supervision of a Class A licensed asbestos removalist while using correct personal protective equipment (PPE).When it comes to managing a strata property, there are various compliance or legislative requirements that are needed to protect owners and residents. Also, when the situation allows, you don’t want to miss out on the chance of an insurance claim. Click here to learn more about Community Health & Safety and related services to ensure your protection. You can also download our FREE Community Living guide series on defects here. If you would like to learn more about the services we offer, click here for a free assessment.