The strength of asbestos, combined with its ability to absorb sound and its resistance to heat, electrical and chemical damage, previously made it attractive to the manufacturing and construction industries.
However, as we are all very much aware today, prolonged exposure to the fibres can lead to serious illness. There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos in the air. According to Safe Work Australia, a property is only safe if the exposure level is below 0.01 fibres/milliliter.
In 2016 NSW Fair Trading offered free testing to eligible strata schemes. While the registration for free testing closed on October 31 last year, schemes that lodged their intent to register have until March 31 2017 to make sure that their form has been submitted. These forms should be emailed to AsbestosEnquiry@finance.nsw.gov.au.
On the other hand, strata schemes may prefer to arrange testing at their own expense. SafeWork NSW has a list of licensed asbestos assessors.
To carry out the test, samples of ceiling insulation in various locations in the roof cavity will be taken back to an accredited laboratory. It generally takes around 60 days for the results to be issued.
If the test is positive for loose-fill asbestos, the next step is to carry out a technical assessment of the property. This will identify the exposure pathways and health risks of living in the apartment. The air quality will be assessed for airborne fibres to determine the level and concentration of asbestos.
If a technical assessment finds that there is a serious health risk, the property may be eligible for purchase under the NSW Government’s Voluntary Purchase and Demolition program. The owner could have access to a stamp duty concession as well as funding to help pay for relocation expenses, counseling, independent legal advice and soft furnishings.
The affected property is also placed on the Public Register and the electrical meter box is tagged with a government-approved label. This is for the health and safety of tradespeople and maintenance teams.
Once the property has been demolished and the land remediated, the property will be removed from the Public Register.
Needless to say, it is unsafe for owners to enter their roof cavity and attempt to take samples themselves. This should be left to accredited professionals.
If you have any questions regarding asbestos testing, contact your Strata Manager at Netstrata.