Asbestos was used in construction materials from the 1920s to the mid-1980s. You may come into contact with it if you are removing or replacing certain types of roof tiles, wall claddings, vinyl floor coverings, sprayed fire protection, decorative ceilings and roofing membranes.
Exposure to asbestos fibres, such as breathing them into your lungs, can cause serious and even fatal diseases, but symptoms may not appear until 15–20 years after exposure. Exposure to asbestos is the single-biggest cause of work-related death in New Zealand. Over 100 people die each year from asbestos-related diseases.
If you suspect asbestos may be present, these laboratories can test the material:
- Dowdell and Associates Auckland (09 526 0246)
- Capital Environmental Services Wellington (04 566 3311)
- K2 Environmental Ltd Christchurch (03 384 8966) or Auckland (09 275 1261)
- Precise Consulting and Laboratory Ltd, Christchurch (03 943 5394)
- Environmental and Industrial Analysis Group, Christchurch (03 377 4314).
For cladding or flooring take a sample the size of a $2 coin, and for decorative ceiling finishes at least one teaspoonful, including any sparkly material. See the Approved Code of Practice: Management and Removal of Asbestos on the WorkSafe website.
A national licensing system for asbestos removal was introduced on 4 April 2016. The licences available under the asbestos regulations are:
|Type of licence||What asbestos can be removed?|
|Class A||Any type or quantity of asbestos or asbestos containing material, including:|
|Class B||Any amount of non-friable asbestos or ACM|
|ACD associated with removing any amount of non-friable asbestos or ACM.|
No licence is required for removing:
- up to 10 m2 of non-friable asbestos or asbestos-containing material over the whole course of the removal project for the site
asbestos-contaminated dust that is associated with this volume of asbestos or asbestos-containing material, and/or any associated minor volume of asbestos-contaminated dust or debris.
A licensed asbestos assessor inspects completed Class A removal work and provides a clearance certificate for Class A removal work. They can also carry out air quality monitoring during Class A removal work where this is required.
Four new unit standards have been developed for people involved in removing asbestos. The standards that practitioners need will depends on the work they do and their role in that work.
Class A licensed asbestos removalists also need to have a certified safety management system in place. This requirement does not apply to others who carry out work involving asbestos.
Under the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016, you must notify WorkSafe New Zealand of licensed asbestos removal work at least 5 days before work commences. You can find more details here.
The laws around asbestos removal are enforced and the courts take breaches of the laws very seriously. One company was fined over $100,000 and another over $300,000 when they failed to follow the law during demolitions of buildings containing asbestos.
You can find asbestos licence holders on the register here.