That Old Asbestos Roof

  • Creation Date: Thursday, 13 June 2019

If you found out that your house and it has an asbestos roof, what are the implications and what are the rules and regulations regarding such a roof?

As a manufactured product, roof sheets and other products are inert and do not pose any health risks. There are many old houses and buildings still with their original asbestos roofs, pipes, fascias, gutters and wall panels and these are not a problem. Most of the underground water pipes in our cities are made from asbestos cement and this is not a problem at all.

Asbestos in its raw state, however, and whenever one disposes of or cuts or breaks products that are made with asbestos fibres thus releasing the fibres and dust into the air, does pose a significant health hazard and one needs to be aware of what the regulations say.

As a guide, Government regulations regarding the phasing out of asbestos from the manufacturing process became applicable as follows;

1985 – All Everite flat sheet products, including roof slates were asbestos free.
1987 – Government introduced asbestos regulations.
1998 – Blue and Brown asbestos was banned in South Africa.
2001 – Asbestos mines were closed in South Africa.
2002 – All Everite products, including Big 6 roof sheets, were asbestos free.

Pursuant to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993: Asbestos Regulations, 2001, any person who contravenes or fails to comply with any provision of the regulations pertaining to the Act shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a serious fine and/or imprisonment for a period of up to 12 months.

Please download and read the regulations which you can find on the Department of Labour website

If you intend to proceed with maintaining, altering, renovating, repairing or dismantling any asbestos-cement roof sheeting, wall panelling, gutters, fascia boards and related products on a building you must obtain the necessary authority from the Provincial Director.

The Provincial Director
Occupational Health and Safety
Department of Labour
You will find all the relevant contact details on the Department of Labour's website.

You are responsible for compliance with the asbestos regulations and some of those include:-

Employers who work with asbestos cement products, especially roof sheets, must take steps to avoid general accidents since asbestos cement sheeting may not withstand the weight of persons and tools.

The employer should develop a safe work procedure to prevent the release of asbestos into the environment. This procedure should include the use of hand or power tools that will not generate unnecessary dust. Operators who cut asbestos-cement products must wear an approved respirator.

Ideally, new asbestos cement products should be painted or otherwise coated to prevent the release of fibre and inhibit the growth of lichen or moss. It is not the intention of these regulations to encourage the unnecessary cleaning of existing roofs and structures. Although some people may wish to clean and repaint for aesthetic reason it is not technically necessary in terms of this regulation.

Dry brushing, scraping, sanding and abrasion cleaning techniques are not allowed. Roof cleaning with a high-pressure water jet is allowed but only in conjunction with a profiled hood that prevents the dispersal of contaminated water. Water polluted with asbestos must be filtered and the residue disposed of safely.

Ensuring that the relevant items are painted or otherwise sealed with a protective coating to limit the release of asbestos dust, combat weathering and inhibit the growth of lichen or moss;
Cleaning is done under controlled conditions ensuring that dry-brushing, scraping, sanding or abrasion techniques are not used;

Where reasonably practicable, high-pressure water jetting is not used unless, in conjunction with a suitable profiled hood that limits dispersal of contaminated water and, if the said jetting is used, that suitable control method is used in accordance with regulation 13(2)(6);

When a fungicidal solution or moss killer is applied, a standing time of 24 hours or any other period specified by the manufacturer is allowed, and a low-pressure hose is used after such period to keep the sheets wet whilst employing a stiff broom or any similar means to remove any moss or lichens;

Protective clothing and equipment is used; Dust and contaminated water are disposed of according to the regulations;
If any roof work is performed, suitable roof ladders or duckboards or crawling boards are used.

Bottom line:

If you do have an asbestos roof that requires demolishing or repair you need to ensure that the work is carried out by a person who is a registered asbestos contractor and that prior to the commencement of that work the relevant authority is notified that such work is going to be carried out.