Asbestos contamination in mulch

Which hospitals?    
We understand this may cause concerns for you and your workmates, and we share your concerns.   The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is working closely with councils, hospitals, schools etc to resolve this issue as soon as possible to ensure sites are safe for their intended use.  The action required at sites where asbestos has been discovered in mulch varies depending on their use and public access.  Updates on current and ongoing issues, including locations, can be found on the EPA website here.
Consultation 
Your employer should be providing you with information about the fact that asbestos has been identified in mulch at your workplace and letting you know what measures are being taken to ensure your safety at work. 
Controls 
This could include such things as: 
  • Barricading off areas where contaminated mulch has been found 
  • Putting up signage 
  • Keeping the area damp to reduce the likelihood of any airborne particles
  • Arranging for proper removal of contaminated materials by licenced asbestos removal people. 
If you are talking to someone who seems very anxious you could advise them that the risk is low, however if they want to further reduce the risk, they could choose to wear a P2/N95 mask while walking through the outdoor area which will give protection from inhalation of asbestos fibres.  
If you have concerns 
If you are concerned that your employer is not providing you with information, please talk to your branch or get back in contact with the NSWNMA.  If you are concerned about the adequacy of the measures your employer is taking to ensure your safety at work during this time, please let us know what is being done and we can arrange for you to talk to a WHS officer for further information and advice. 
Basic Asbestos info 
What is asbestos? 
Asbestos is a group of naturally-occurring fibrous minerals found in soil or rock. Asbestos was used to create cheap, lightweight, and fire-resistant materials for use in:  
  • building 
  • manufacturing 
  • utilities. 
What are the types of asbestos? 
The two types of asbestos are:  
  • friable – when dry it can be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to a powder in the hand  
  • non-friable – when dry it cannot be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to a powder by hand pressure. It is mixed with cement or other bonding materials and is also known as bonded asbestos.  
Non-friable asbestos can become friable asbestos if the asbestos is damaged or old. Friable asbestos poses a higher risk than bonded asbestos of airborne fibres being released when handled.  Most of the asbestos found in mulch across Sydney has been bonded asbestos.  Further guidance is available from SafeWork NSW and NSW Health  

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