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Clean up and decontamination

Decontamination at the end of the activity

At the end of an asbestos-related activity, the employer must ensure the area is clean and safe for people to enter (as well as decontaminating themselves) before leaving the asbestos work area.

Any asbestos-contaminated dust and debris must be collected in a safe manner and the area must be decontaminated (paying particular attention to walls, ledges, fittings and furnishings). An industrial vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter can be used for this purpose, but employees must be trained in the safe use of the vacuum, including how to empty and dispose of the contents as asbestos waste. An alternative method is to use wet rags to wipe dust from surfaces. Any used rags must be disposed of as asbestos waste.

Decontamination of tools and equipment

All tools and equipment used during the asbestos-related activity need to be decontaminated using the HEPA vacuum or wet rags before they are removed from the asbestos work area. In some cases, solvent-based cleaning products may assist in cleaning and extending the life of the tools and equipment but prior to using such cleaning products, appropriate controls need to be in place. If tools
and equipment, such as the vacuum, cannot be decontaminated in the asbestos work area and are to be re-used for an asbestos-related activity, they should:

  • be tagged to indicate asbestos contamination
  • be double bagged in clearly labelled asbestos bags with an appropriate warning statement (the bag must be decontaminated before being removed from area)
  • remain sealed until they have been decontaminated or the commencement of the next asbestos-related activity (where the equipment can be taken into the next asbestos-related activity area and re-used under controlled conditions).

PPE should be worn when opening the bag to clean or re-use the tools and equipment. In some circumstances it may be better to dispose of contaminated tools and equipment depending on the extent of contamination, the difficulty of decontamination and the ease of replacement.

Personal decontamination

Personal decontamination must be undertaken before employees leave the asbestos work area at any time. Asbestos-contaminated PPE must not be transported outside the asbestos work area except for disposal or laundering purposes where it is double bagged, sealed and labelled. These practices help to ensure contamination of other areas in the workplace does not occur.

Before leaving the asbestos work area, employees should remove all visible dust from protective clothing and footwear using an asbestos vacuum cleaner and/or wet wiping with a damp rag. Use damp rags with a gentle patting action (rubbing can disturb fibres) or spray overalls with a fine mist to suppress the dust. Where there are two employees they can help each other.

While still wearing their respirator, employees should carefully peel off the coveralls inside out and then place them into an asbestos-waste container for disposal. Respiratory protective equipment must be worn until all contaminated coveralls and clothing has been vacuumed and/or removed and bagged for disposal (or laundering) and personal washing has been completed. After removing their respirator, employees need to wash their face and hands and clean under their fingernails.

Employer’s duty to contain and dispose of asbestos waste

Employers must ensure any asbestos waste related to the asbestos-related activity is contained and disposed of as soon as possible. Asbestos waste includes any:

  • asbestos associated with the activity and is no longer required
  • dust in the asbestos work area
  • contaminated clothing or PPE
  • rags used to clean the area
  • contaminated tools or equipment that cannot be decontaminated and are no longer required.

Asbestos waste must be contained to eliminate the release of airborne asbestos fibres.

Disposal

When the asbestos removal is finished, you must ensure that the asbestos waste is -

  • disposed of as soon as is reasonably practicable; and
  • disposed of in an appropriate manner that eliminates the release of airborne asbestos fibres; and
  • disposed of at a waste disposal site licensed by the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA)

Disposal must only be at a site licensed by EPA to accept waste asbestos. If you intend to dispose of waste asbestos (both industrial and domestically sourced) you should contact the disposal site operator to check whether the site is appropriately licensed to accept the waste. Licence conditions require waste asbestos to be handled and covered in a way that ensures no dust is created. 

Find your nearest disposal site that is licensed to handle asbestos.