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Home renovators to become the next wave of asbestos victims

Tuesday, 26th November, 2013

John Franklyn John Franklyn

By Darrin Manuel Reckless renovators are set to keep the asbestos-related death toll rising for decades - and a number of locals are likely to be included in the stats The head of a new government asbestos agency Peter Tighe has warned that DIY heroes will c

Reckless renovators are set to keep the asbestos-related death toll rising for decades - and a number of locals are likely to be included in the stats.

The head of a new government asbestos agency, Peter Tighe, has warned that “DIY heroes” will create a fourth wave of asbestos victims that will see Australia’s asbestos-related deaths increase until the 2030s.

The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency CEO told the inaugural National Asbestos Forum in Sydney yesterday that rates of deadly conditions like mesothelioma would peak in about 2020.

Local Master Builders representative John Franklyn said asbestos remained a problem in Broken Hill, with careless renovators and shonky builders often leaving the deadly substance at the rubbish tip.

“I see it at the tip face all the time ... It’s a major concern because people don’t appreciate how dangerous it really is,” he said.

“You look at the cost of removal - the cost of paying a professional, some people just can’t afford it so they do it themselves.

“They might want to do some renovations on the cheap, so they demolish stuff, throw it in the back of the ute and take it out the tip.

“They’ve got the fibres all over their clothes and in the car, then they jump in the car on Monday morning and take the kids to school with all the fibres still in there.

“It’s absolutely ludicrous ... at the end of the day you have to say to yourself ‘is it worth it?’”

Mr Tighe said one way to prevent home owners being exposed was to require renovators to achieve a basic level of competence and asbestos awareness before they could be issued an owner-builder licence.

However critics in the industry said that approach risked leading homeowners to believe they knew what they were doing based on limited information.

Mr Franklyn agreed, and said home owners should instead take a careful approach when undertaking renovations, or contact a licensed professional for advice.

“You can teach people until you’re blue in the face, but it doesn’t mean they’ll do the right thing behind closed doors,” he said.

“I don’t have a problem with people doing renovations themselves, but they should do their homework, go to the Workcover site, and educate themselves or check with a licensed builder.

“A lot of it is common sense and if everyone did the right thing, it would be fine.”

 Although a householder may legally remove asbestos from their property, it is generally recommended that the work be carried out by trained professionals.An unlicenced person may remove non-friable asbestos material if the area does not exceed 10m2 and the total time over which the removal is performed does not exceed one hour in any seven-day period.

Anyone seeking further information on asbestos and its removal is encouraged to check http://www.asbestoswise.com.au or workcover.nsw.gov.au. BDT/AAP

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