Asbestos-related disease is likely to increase thanks to DIY home renovators accidentally drilling asbestos and inhaling the hazardous dust. Bonded asbestos - which is fibro sheets still in tact - can easily release fibres into the air if it is drilled, scraped or broken. Here's how to drill into asbestos safely if you have no option to leave the asbestos untouched.
Identify asbestosYou can read our other stories about renovating safely but it's important to be aware of the risks of asbestos in Australian homes. It's better to avoid disturbing or drilling into any material that contains asbestos, but we also know that isn't always possible.
Prevent the dust
Equipment you will need
• A hand drill is preferred, but a low-speed battery-powered drill can be used
• Disposable cleaning rags (eg. paper, cloth)
• Bucket of water andr a misting spray bottle
• Duct tape
• Sealant such as PVA glue
• A paste or gel like substance such as wallpaper paste, shaving cream or hair gel
• Two 0.2mm plastic bags for asbestos waste
• A disposable plastic drop sheet to cover the floor under where you are drilling
• A sturdy, disposable cup if working overhead
• Personal protective equipment – such as respirator, disposable coveralls, safety
goggles and disposal gloves
Never use a high-speed drill on a material containing asbestos. The high speed of the drill can
release asbestos fibres into the air. Only use a hand drill or a low-speed battery powered drill.
Prepare your work area
• Remove all loose and unnecessary items from the work area
• Restrict entry while you are doing the work
• Use plastic sheeting secured with duct tape to cover any surface of the work area and
as drop sheets
• Put on your personal protective equipment
• Check the fit of your respirator as per manufacturer’s instructions
1. Tape the point to be drilled and the exit point if possible.
2. Cover the drill entry and exit points on the asbestos sheet with agenerous amount of thickened substance such as wallpaper paste or gel (see above).
3. Drill through the paste.
4. If a cable is to be passed through, insert a sleeve to protect the inner edge of the hole.
5. If working overhead, drill a hole through the bottom of the disposable cup.
6. Fill or line the inside of the cup with the thickened substance.
7. Put the drill bit through the hole in the cup and make sure the drill bit extends beyond the lip of the cup.
8. Align the drill bit with the marked point.
9. Ensure cup is firmly held against the
surface to be drilled.
10. Drill through the surface.
11. Remove the cup from the surface.
12. If a cable is to be passed through, insert a sleeve to protect the inner edge of the hole.
Clean up afterwards
Keep your respirator on until all clean up is finished and you have removed your work clothing
• Use damp rags to clean off the paste and debris from the wall and drill bit
• Seal the cut edges with sealant
• Carefully roll or fold plastic sheeting from the floor, so any collected dust or debris does not spill
Domestic vacuum cleaners are unsuitable and should never be used, even if they have a HEPA filter.
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• If necessary, use damp rags or an approved asbestos vacuum cleaner to clean any
remaining visibly contaminated sections of the work area. Do not resoak used rags in
the bucket, as this will contaminate the water. Either fold the rag and use the clean
surface or use a new rag.
• Place asbestos debris, used rags, plastic sheeting and other asbestos waste in disposal
bags (only half fill the bag – this is to reduce the chance of the bag splitting)
• After the work area is clean, wet down your personal protective equipment and clothing
with a light spray of water and place them and all used damp cloths into a disposable
• Before removing the bags from the work area, wipe external surfaces with damp rags
to remove any dust and put the used rags in one of the bags
• Seal all disposal bags with duct tape, place into a second disposal bag and seal again
Label all bags with an appropriate warning such as:
CAUTION – ASBESTOS
DO NOT DAMAGE OR OPEN BAG
DO NOT INHALE DUST
CANCER AND LUNG DISEASE HAZARD
• Dispose of asbestos waste at the appropriate waste facility (contact your local Council
for more information).
This article was written from advice compiled by Queensland's department of health and was compiled from the Public Health Regulation 2005 and the 2005 NOHSC Code of Practice for the Management and Control of Asbestos.
© 2007 Alex May