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Air monitoring

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Air monitoring means airborne asbestos fibre sampling that assesses exposures and the effectiveness of control measures. Air monitoring includes exposure, control and clearance monitoring.

All air monitoring must be undertaken in accordance with Safe Work Australia's Guidance note on the membrane filter method for estimating airborne asbestos fibres.

When is air monitoring required?

Air monitoring is mandatory for all friable asbestos removal and must:

  • include the asbestos removal area including inside an enclosure
  • be carried out immediately before commencing removal work except where glove bags are being used
  • be carried out during the removal work and at other times decided by an independent licensed asbestos assessor
  • be carried out after work on the asbestos has been completed and the area decontaminated
  • be carried out prior to any enclosures being dismantled.

An air monitoring program is not always necessary for the removal of non-friable asbestos material, or during asbestos related work, however, it is regarded as good occupational hygiene practice.

However, air monitoring must be carried out during asbestos related work if the person conducting the business or undertaking is uncertain as to whether the exposure standard for asbestos is likely to be exceeded.

Who is responsible for arranging air monitoring requirements?

A person conducting a business or undertaking who commissions asbestos removal work at a workplace that requires a class A asbestos removal licence must ensure that an independent licensed asbestos assessor undertakes air monitoring of the asbestos removal area.

If the workplace is a domestic premise, the licensed removalist carrying out asbestos removal work requiring a class A asbestos removal licence at the premise must ensure that an independent licensed asbestos assessor undertakes air monitoring of the asbestos removal area.

During asbestos-related work the person conducting the business or undertaking doing the asbestos-related work must ensure air monitoring is carried out if they are uncertain as to whether the exposure standard for asbestos is likely to be exceeded.

Who can carry out air monitoring during the removal of friable asbestos?

An independent licensed asbestos assessor must carry out certain functions connected with Class A asbestos removal work. These are air monitoring, clearance inspections and issuing a clearance certificate.

Who can carry out air monitoring during the removal of non-friable asbestos, or during asbestos related work?

If a decision is made to carry out air monitoring during the removal of non-friable asbestos, or asbestos related work, a competent person must be engaged. Such a person must be:

  • experienced and knowledgeable in the asbestos removal industry
  • competent with operating monitoring equipment such as sampling pumps
  • able to implement the most appropriate sampling strategy and place sampling pumps in the correct locations
  • able to adequately store and transport samples prior to analysis.

An occupational hygienist or individuals who have a statement of attainment in the VET course for asbestos assessors (CPCCBC5014A Conduct asbestos assessment associated with removal) should all be competent to conduct air monitoring for asbestos fibres, if they have experience with asbestos and ACM.

People new to sampling and analysis should not undertake the work without making personal contact with an experienced occupational hygienist or scientist to obtain the essential training in the techniques involved.

What is control monitoring?

Control monitoring means air monitoring using static or positional instruments to measure the level of airborne asbestos fibres in an area during work on asbestos containing material.

Static or positional samples are taken at fixed locations which are usually between one and two metres above floor level.

Control monitoring is designed to assist in assessing the effectiveness of any implemented control measures. These monitoring results are not representative of actual occupational exposures, and should not be used for that purpose. The results of control monitoring cannot be used to compare with the national exposure standard for asbestos.

For asbestos removal the action required for certain levels of fibres are set out in the Code of Practice on How to Safely Remove Asbestos.

What is exposure monitoring?

Exposure monitoring involves taking air samples within the breathing zone to determine a person's risk from, or level of exposure to, airborne asbestos fibres. This method is intended to be used for the sampling of airborne asbestos fibres in occupational environments where the airborne fibres are known to predominantly be asbestos. Exposure monitoring is designed to estimate a person's exposure to asbestos, so that it may be compared with the national exposure standard.

Exposure monitoring includes airborne asbestos fibre sampling, analysis, estimation of time-weighted average exposure and interpretation. Samples are taken within the breathing zone and are usually obtained by fastening a filter holder to the worker's jacket lapel.

What is clearance monitoring?

Clearance monitoring means air monitoring using static or positional samples to measure the level of airborne asbestos fibres in, and immediately surrounding, an asbestos removal work area after work on asbestos containing material has been completed and the area decontaminated.

For friable asbestos removal work, clearance monitoring also includes air monitoring within an enclosure at completion of the work and prior to dismantling of the enclosure to ensure fibre concentrations are below 0.01 fibres/ml of air. An area is 'cleared' when the level of airborne asbestos fibres is measured as being below 0.01 fibres/ml.

Who can analyse the air monitoring samples?

Air monitoring samples should be analysed by a NATA-accredited laboratory accredited for the relevant test method.

Who should be told about the results of air monitoring?

If fibre levels are found to be at more than 0.02 fibres during friable asbestos removal, the licensed asbestos removalist conducting the removal work must notify Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.

Where air monitoring was conducted at a non-domestic place the person who commissioned removal work must ensure the results of air monitoring are given to:

  • workers at the workplace
  • health and safety representatives
  • persons conducting businesses or undertakings at the workplace
  • others at the workplace

Where air monitoring was conducted at a domestic place the licensed asbestos removalist must ensure the results of air monitoring are given to:

  • the person who commissioned the work
  • workers at the workplace
  • health and safety representatives
  • persons conducting businesses or undertakings at the workplace
  • the occupier of the domestic premise
  • the owner of the domestic premise
  • others at the workplace.

Where air monitoring was conducted during asbestos related work the person conducting the work must ensure the results of air monitoring are given to any workers or other persons who may have been exposed to asbestos fibres arising from the work.

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