Queensland Safety Watchdog warns Builders to check Temporary Power Boards for Asbestos

The Queensland Safety watchdog has warned builders to check temporary power boards for asbestos.

Asbestos containing materials (also known as ACM) were often used as an electrical insulator on meter boards and panels, the Queensland safety watchdog has warned. Authorities also warned builders to be cautious of asbestos containing material as bases to bushbars, spark arrestors and flash guards.

They have also warned that older switchboards have higher chances of containing asbestos as do timber metre boxes installed before 1990.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland also highlights that temporary power boards which were made or imported before 2 January 2004 may contain asbestos and builders need to be particularly aware of this.

As the authority pointed out using and reusing of temporary power boards on poles in the construction industry is common practice. However the problem comes in if any of the components of the switchboard or cabinet contain asbestos, then the temporary power board cannot be reused or moved to another site – it must be disposed of.

The following excerpt was taken from www.deir.qld.gov.au

Asbestos containing materials (ACM) were commonly used as an electrical insulator on meter boards and panels in general, and as bases to the busbars, spark arresters and flash guards. The older the switchboard, the more chance there is that it contains asbestos. Generally speaking, if temporary power boards were made or imported before 1 January 2004 they may contain asbestos.


Timber meter boxes installed prior to 1990 were also commonly lined with asbestos-cement sheeting (fibro). Asbestos contaminated dust and debris from the various asbestos components can also be present within the cabinets.


Older switchboards were manufactured from asbestos/resin or asbestos coal tar pitch composite. These asbestos products had brand names such as Zelemite, Lebah, Ausbestos, and Miscolite. These usually have a smooth finish on the surfaces which are dark brown to black in colour and also have a strong tar or bituminous smell to them. Unsealed holes on these surfaces often reveal the presence of whitish fibres protruding from the material. Sometimes the brand names were stamped onto the rear of the boards and panels, but the absence of such labels does not mean asbestos is not present.


Source: http://www.deir.qld.gov.au/workplace/publications/safe/construction/jul13/temp-power-boards-containing-asbestos/index.htm#.Uf90w5Kkxjk

As with most asbestos products the problem arises when the asbestos fibres are disturbed, say by drilling for instance. The post goes on to explain:

Drilling into asbestos components, for instance while electrical contractors are setting up the power board, can cause asbestos fibres to become airborne. Builders are encouraged to check their temporary power boards and safely dispose of any power boards with ACM.


Source: http://www.deir.qld.gov.au/workplace/publications/safe/construction/jul13/temp-power-boards-containing-asbestos/index.htm#.Uf90w5Kkxjk

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland have also reminded builders that they do not need a licence to dispose of temporary power boards containing asbestos because it is less than 250kg. However despite being able to transport the waste yourself, you must follow the correct disposal methods, in accordance with the How to Safely Remove Asbestos Code of Practice 2011.

When disposing of the asbestos the material containing the asbestos material must be double wrapped/bagged with minimum 200 micrometre thickness polythene sheeting/bags. The bags must be labelled clearly “Asbestos Waste”. The asbestos containing material must be moved to an approved hazardous waste facility.