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Posted By Topic: Black Switchboard Panel

Jan 31 2019 13:35

So circa 1970s build, black panel behind cover with all the fuse holders etc mounted to it.

Need to drill some holes in it for a couple of new circuits. Precautions? Real question; will this contain Asbestos?

Jan 31 2019 14:28

They usually do.

I inderstand th WorkSafe have a paper of the precautions to use when a very limited number of holes for new equipment is required.

Use of shaving foam was a way previously approved, this method may have been changed in recent times. Put the form in the hole or adjecent to the hole(s) being drilled to catch the dril swarf and then dipose of the foam and swarf details for the type of hazardous substance.

Feb 01 2019 19:51

I just hold the hoover nozzle beside any hole I'm drilling in the stuff - I mean what are the chances of a fleck of it getting up yer nose and killing ya? Harden up.

Feb 01 2019 21:19

Except those fine particles not stopped in the bag are now spreading around the room for others to suffer from. The days of "Harden Up" are long gone. There's a reason asbestos is treated with respect!

Feb 01 2019 23:11

Its such evil stuff that it's still being mined flat out round the world.


Feb 02 2019 10:17

Despite what several Worksafe people have said in seminars; I don't believe swarf drilled from "zealite" or similar black-panel switchboards is "friable" asbestos capable of releasing loose fibres.
It's just ACM, with the asbestos particles still bound into the swarf particles. So basic procedures to capture the swarf and dispose of it are all that's required.

Capture is easy, and shaving foam works pretty well; especially if you tape an envelope below the hole to catch anything that falls. And there's no licence required for quantities under 10 m2.

Disposal is another matter, Like asbestos, ACM can only legally be disposed of to special approved landfills, and that costs. Assuming you can even find one anywhere near you. I suspect most just chuck it in the skip; though some might take the trouble to bag it first.

There's hugely more danger from "millboard" lining of switchboard cavities, and from old fuses with woven asbestos bedding for the fuse wire, and from old water-heater flexes with asbestos thermal insulation around the cores (also used as lagging on some older HWCs. All of which ARE friable asbestos. Which no-one is allowed to 'remove' without a licence, and an approved supervisor, and giving Worksafe 2 weeks' notice. The HSW Asbestos Regs are designed around large quantities of asbestos / ACM. They simply do not work for the sorts of small quantity asbestos removal electricians are likely to be dealing with: "Sorry Mrs Jones, can't fix your water heater for a couple of weeks, you'll just have to have cold showers until I get a 3-person team in to remove 500 mm of flex".

But while they may be completely impracticable for our trade, they are Regulations, ie law; and if we break them we can be fined substantial ammounts. So a good idea to at least download them; and have a read Pretty dry reading, difficult to get your head around; much worse than our ESRs.

And worth taking some precautions; since they don't cost much (money or time). I know some metering companies 'require' sparkies to provide full taped-down ground sheets, moonsuits, masks, etc before they'll even unscrew a meter from black-panel. Ridiculously over the top. And all started because some slack muppet couldn't be arsed cleaning up after themselves; left the swarf on the floor. And their customer was a scientist who wanted to know what this black stuff all over his floor was.


Feb 02 2019 12:02

It's good to see the industry has imbraced proper safety measures over the last 10 or so years. Ever since the Pike River mine disaster (and the Christchurch earthquakes) I've seen big improvements in site safety and awareness of health issues esp airborne nasties like asbestos and silicone dust from concrete.

Having said that though we could sharpen up a bit more on some installation practices. We could double bag an old Ausbestos panel and dispose of it at a proper dump; but then at another house install an ducted extract fan and cut a big hole with a jigsaw in an outside soffit which could possibly contain asbestos.

Feb 02 2019 12:06

The asbestos content of those boards is allegedly minimal. It has to be in fine dust form to harm you so drilling it is unlikely to create that if you have a sharp drill bit. Using grease, tooth paste or shaving foam with a bag below the hole to catch the bits is going to reduce the risk even more. Just don't use a grinder or a sander on it and you will be taking all necessary precautions in my opinion. What we should all be more concerned about is silica from drilling and cutting concrete. How many people have ever worked on a site where there are people cutting and surfacing concrete crating large clouds and piles of concrete dust? How many of us drill a hole in concrete without a mask then blow the dust out of the hole? Silica is supposedly causing more instances of lung disorders and death than asbestos currently is. It is also supposedly faster acting than asbestos.

Feb 11 2019 05:39

We work with these boards most days the industry safety standards have changed in the last couple of years. It is your responsibility to follow the processes required to protect workers and the customers also. Using shaving foam and drilling the hole slowly preventing air particles a mat on the floor. any residue should be properly bagged , removed and disposed of appropriately