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Want to Remove Asbestos Yourself? You’re Risking Your Life (and Maybe Your Bank Balance)

NZ has strict rules around asbestos removal. Follow the rules, or you can risk infringement fines.

About 220 people are killed in NZ every year by asbestos-related diseases. It’s already 220 deaths too many, but then in 2022, the Asbestos Sector Review found that the number of workers exposed to asbestos are likely ‘grossly underestimated’.

The importance of understanding what asbestos is and why it has to be removed so carefully still isn’t widely enough known. While the industry wants the rate of disease to drop in 30-40 years time, with the current inconsistency of removal, we could be looking at a much higher death rate.

Unsafe Asbestos Removals Still Happening

In February 2023, a Canterbury carpet and flooring company was fined $52,000 for not checking for asbestos, removing it dangerously and incorrectly, then disposing of it unsafely.

First, all homes built before 2000 are likely to contain some form of asbestos, and all flooring companies should know this. Vinyl in particular is known to be source of asbestos containing material, and it likely something they come across regularly. Businesses have a duty to understand this, an enforced process to identify it, and a plan to manage all the associated risks. This is part of NZ law, under various acts:

The amount of people exposed to asbestos during this illegal removal process, including the homeowner, pets and family, neighbours, the workers, and everyone who came into contact with asbestos during transit and disposal, is horrifying.

Can Individuals be Prosecuted in NZ For Incorrect Asbestos Removal?

Both businesses and residential landlords must follow NZ rules around asbestos removal. Failure to do so can incur instant infringement fees. This fine does not mean they’re exempt from carrying out repairs or remedial action either—they’ll have to pay for asbestos remediation and correct disposal as well as paying the fee. These infringement fees for individuals in a workplace who remove asbestos incorrectly include:

  • Using high-pressure water on asbestos: $2,000
  • Not notifying WorkSafe before starting emergency demolition of home containing asbestos: $1,000
  • Failing to wear PPE $500

Maximum penalties for businesses failing to meet asbestos guidelines can result in fines of $100,000.

However, individual homeowners are not covered under this law, unless they contract out the work to someone else, in which case their home becomes a workplace. So if they lie to the contractor and say there is no asbestos, they will be liable for the same fines as an employer or business.

While some people try to evade the expense of asbestos removal, it’s highly likely they’ll not only get caught, but also that they’ll inhale asbestos themselves, putting them at risk of a range of asbestos-related diseases. More worryingly are their families and everyone else they risk harming.

What Must Individuals Do Regarding Asbestos

First, you must ascertain the type of asbestos involved, which can be done by sending samples away for testing. Non-friable asbestos is not as dangerous as friable asbestos. Individual DIYers are allowed to remove an area of non-friable asbestos less than 10m2. Of course, this must be removed correctly, using appropriate PPE and disposed of as per your local council’s guidelines (usually double bagged and in the appropriate location. Check out your local options, which can include secure lined bags supplied specifically for asbestos removal).

Friable asbestos removal must be carried out by qualified and skilled companies with the appropriate gear and knowledge. If you are considering removing asbestos yourself, consider not only your health, but that of everyone around you. While using licenced companies is more expensive than DIY, it gives you peace of mind and you know the job has been done right.

It’s also important to note that when you go to sell the home, it’s common practice for asbestos testing to be carried out. If the removal hasn’t been done correctly and asbestos is detected, it may impact the resale value.

Don’t muck around and risk your health. Contact us at Tech Clean to get it removed correctly, and comply with NZ laws.

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