Are you thinking of making improvements to your home?

During this time of social distancing, you may be thinking this is the perfect opportunity to make some headway on your renovations or home improvements.

However, it's important to know that many houses built before 1990 contain asbestos cement materials, especially in the eaves, ceilings, internal and external wall cladding (particularly in wet areas such as bathrooms and laundries), as well as under tiling and lino. Old sheds and fences may also contain asbestos.

These can often be in poor condition due to age or weather exposure and pose a significant risk if asbestos fibres are released, become airborne and then inhaled. Breathing these fibres can cause a range of life-threatening diseases including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

If you think there may be asbestos in or around your property, you should contact an asbestos professional (asbestos assessor or licensed removalist) before starting any work on your home.

Engaging professionals who know how to manage this work safely will protect you, your family and your neighbours from this risk. Currently, asbestos assessors and licensed removalists are continuing to work. Still, some may choose not to come to your house as a precautionary measure.

If you do arrange for an asbestos professional to come to your home during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a number of precautions you should take to ensure correct hygiene and social distancing measures are in place:

  • Check-in with the asbestos professional before they visit to ensure you are both feeling well and are not showing symptoms. If anyone in your home is showing symptoms linked to COVID-19, ask the asbestos professional to advise you on how to control the risk of asbestos exposure until you are able to have the professional attend.
  • Remember don’t shake hands, you can wave hello instead
  • Maintain a safe distance at all times in line with current social distancing guidelines
  • Provide facilities for the professional to wash their hands before and after the job is done and, if possible, supply alcohol-based hand sanitiser for them to use
  • Clean and disinfect the surrounding surfaces if work is to be carried out (unless suspected asbestos has been disturbed or is in poor condition)
  • Ensure everyone in the household practises good hygiene at all times including covering coughs and sneezes with an elbow or a tissue and regularly washing hands with soap for a full 20 seconds

There are resources available to help you to minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in circumstances where you must have professional tradespeople attend your home. You can find an example of such information here.

Remember - if you are unsure if something contains asbestos, treat it as if it does and call a professional. It's just not worth risking your health or the health of your loved ones.