For bushfire affected residents
DO NOT ENTER your property until you are advised that it is safe to do so by emergency services, utilities companies or local council
Access to fire damaged sites, there is a high terminal risk to health from friable asbestos on a large number of fire damaged buildings as well as a possibility of death or injury from sharp objects in the unstable ruins. Please do not enter any site for any reason. Council is making every effort to expedite the asbestos evaluation and stabilisation. The work is underway but will not be completed for many weeks due to the scale of the disaster. As part of the recovery process occupiers will be given the opportunity to enter the sites under supervision prior to demolition and clean-up of the sites. Asbestos kills, its just not worth the risk.
Hazardous household materials that may be present after a bushfire include asbestos, ash from burnt treated timbers (i.e. copper chrome arsenate or CCA), medicines, garden or farm chemicals, other household chemicals and cleaning products, damaged gas bottles, metal and other residues from burnt household appliances as well as ash and dusts.
Other hazards may include unsafe building structures, electrical hazards and missing fencing panels around swimming pools.
Before returning to your property after a bushfire, consider the following precautions to protect your health:
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Buildings built before 1987 may contain asbestos in the form of flat or corrugated sheets (fibro) used for walls, ceilings, roofing or in products such as pipes, electrical conduit and eaves.
A fire damaged asbestos building does not generate significant levels of asbestos fibres in the air unless it is disturbed. Although it is generally low risk to walk around or nearby asbestos damaged buildings, risks can increase when the material is disturbed.
Asbestos dust and fibres have the potential to present a health risk during and after a fire if not properly managed. Asbestos fibres may be present in the dust and ash and may pose a risk to those disturbing the dust and ash if inhaled while searching for their lost belongings.
The site will need to be continually damped down so as not to cause dust or be sprayed with polyvinyl acetate (PVA), or a similar sealant, to reduce the risk of the asbestos fibres becoming airborne (further reapplication requirements need to be monitored). This needs to continue until the site is cleaned up. Dust suppression should not be so great that it causes runoff into nearby drains and waterways.
Depending on the extent of the fire damage, the asbestos present can be classified as either friable or non-friable. Asbestos sheets that are severely damaged or reduced to ash are likely to be friable whereas asbestos that is intact or has suffered smoke damage is likely to be classified as non-friable.
The following precautionary measures are recommended during the clean up of fire damaged buildings containing asbestos:
For information about the safe handling and removal of asbestos, visit safework.nsw.gov.au
For information about transport and disposal of hazardous materials, visit epa.nsw.gov.au
For information about the health risks associated with asbestos, visit health.nsw.gov.au
For information about common areas where asbestos can be found in the home, visit asbestosawareness.com.au
This factsheet is intended as a brief and general guide only. Each situation should be assessed and treated for its particular circumstances in accordance with current legislation and more detailed guidance may be needed.