Asbestos experts cash in as demand soars
The decommissioning of manufacturing plants and coal-fired power stations has sent demand soaring for asbestos removal services.
“There’s a fair bit going on,” says John Flavel, the national asbestos manager for McMahon Services, the country’s largest provider of asbestos removal services.
‘There’s a lot of old coal-fired power stations being decommissioned.
They’re full of asbestos. There’s a lot of industrial sites being decommissioned – manufacturing is closing down – a lot of manufacturing sites we’re shutting down contain asbestos in some shape or form. It’s going to continue.”
The construction boom increasingly driven by commercial and infrastructure work is prompting demand for asbestos and demolition services across the country. The decommissioning of power stations such as Hazelwood in Victoria and Port Augusta in South Australia is part of it, but so is the large scale of demolition needed in Sydney to facilitate projects such as the new metro rail project.
“Sydney’s pretty hot at the moment with a lot of demolitions and asbestos removal going on,” Flavel says. “Any building built prior to 1985… would have asbestos in some form. It came in thousands of different forms.”
The hazardous material, used extensively for insulation, heatproofing and soundproofing until it was phased out in the 1980s, found its way at a domestic level into roof shingles and floor tiles, but was also used extensively in commercial and industrial buildings to line pipes and furnaces, and insulate walls.
The removal of friable asbestos which easily breaks down into powder, making it easy to ingest – is a specialised task that requires trained workers in a negative-pressure enclosure with a range of controls.
The demand for those services has pushed up wages of supervisor-level workers by 20 per cent over the past year, Mr Flavel estimates.
“You are seeing some numbers on qualified people rising,” he says.
“What you pay for a supervisor, people with experience – the market’s driven that price up due to the number of people with experience in hazardous materials.”
Article originally appeared in AFR.