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Managing asbestos in emergencies and disasters

Be aware and stay safe around asbestos after emergencies and disasters

Cleaning up after storms, bushfires, flood, buildings fires and other incidents can involve asbestos.

You can manage this safely.

Where can I find a licensed asbestos removalist?

SafeWork NSW publishes a list of licensed asbestos removalists.

If your home or buildings have been damaged in a flood

Buildings and other structures damaged in a flood can leave health and safety hazards in the structure and debris. If a flood-damaged building was built before 1990, it is likely to contain asbestos. Debris may also contain asbestos.

Asbestos can be managed safely

Asbestos is found in many parts of homes built before 1990, including:

  • roofing  
  • ceilings and internal walls 
  • eaves  
  • fencing 
  • flue and water pipes 
  • fireplaces 
  • behind tiles 
  • flooring underlay. 

Before you start clean up use the Asbestos Checker or if possible, have a licensed asbestos assessor inspect your property to find where asbestos might be.

How do I remove asbestos immediately after a flood or storm?

Using a licensed asbestos removalist is the best way to remove asbestos, but this may not be possible following a flood or storm.

A licensed asbestos removalist knows how to safely remove and dispose of asbestos, then decontaminate your property to minimise health risks.

If you are not using a licensed removalist you can remove asbestos on your property safely by doing the following steps:

  • Obtain 2 thick plastic bags, disposable plastic gloves or washing up gloves
  • Obtain a P2 face mask – from the hardware store. Masks used for COVID-19 safety won’t protect you
  • Put on the mask and gloves before starting the clean-up
  • Pick up (don’t sweep) the pieces of asbestos and place in plastic bag
  • When finished remove gloves and face mask and place in plastic bag
  • Knot the top of the plastic bag and then place the knotted plastic bag into the second empty plastic bag and then knot the top
  • Clearly label the bag as asbestos
  • Wash and clean hands thoroughly with soap and water
  • Keep asbestos waste separated from other waste you are removing
  • Follow advice from the local emergency services or council on where to put this separated waste
  • DO NOT put asbestos waste in red-lid bins or skip bins that aren’t meant for asbestos waste. This is really important to keep your family, volunteers and clean-up crews safe.

What if I’m not removing asbestos myself?

If you decide to pay someone to remove the asbestos or organised volunteers are helping clean up, they must be licensed to remove asbestos if they are removing over 10m2 of non-friable asbestos or any amount of friable asbestos. They must follow the legal requirements around asbestos removal including the Code of Practice “How to Safely Remove Asbestos” and all Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) laws.

How do I clean asbestos materials after a storm or flood?

Take care when cleaning the surface of asbestos materials to avoid damage and the release of asbestos fibres.

When cleaning asbestos materials:

  • Clean walls and other surfaces containing asbestos materials using domestic hoses or by hand. Use soapy water with a cloth, sponge, light scrubbing device such as a soft brush or broom
  • Regularly check the surface of the material you are cleaning to ensure it is not being damaged. If damage is occurring, clean more gently
  • Don’t clean asbestos roofs and other asbestos materials with high pressure water cleaners or water blasters, this releases fibres into a large area putting you and others at risk.

Can I cut asbestos that has been damaged?

You can remove asbestos materials that are already broken and dislodged. Do not cut or break asbestos materials, this may release fibres that you and others can breathe in. Always use the correct personal protective equipment when working with asbestos.

If there is damage, we strongly recommend getting a licensed asbestos professional in.