SafeWork NSW has been made aware of concerns that asbestos-containing material may be present in some bunsen burner gauze mats commonly used in laboratories. These mats typically have a ceramic disk in the centre, and are often used with bunsen burners.
Workplace health and safety laws prohibit a range of activities including the importation, supply, sale and use of asbestos. They also set out duties to identify all asbestos present in a workplace.
Risk from using asbestos-contaminated gauze mats
If a gauze mat contains asbestos, the risk from normal use will generally be extremely low. Particles and debris may break off during use or through abrasion or impact in storage, these will generally not represent an airborne risk.
Stop using your mats and find out if they contain asbestos
Quarantine any gauze mats until you can confirm with your supplier that there is no asbestos-containing material in them (even though they may be labelled as 'asbestos-free'). If you can't confirm this with your supplier, you should have them tested at a NATA-accredited laboratory.
Quarantining the gauze mats while you're confirming if they contain asbestos could be as simple as putting them in a locked cabinet or container which is labelled appropriately to indicate the potential for asbestos contamination.
Dispose of mats that contain asbestos
Gauze mats confirmed to contain asbestos must be disposed of as asbestos waste. If you are in any doubt about whether the gauze mats contain asbestos, dispose of them as if they do contain asbestos.
Check when you buy new gauze mats
If you are buying or importing gauze mats, ask your supplier for documentation confirming there is no asbestos in the products (even though they may be labelled as 'asbestos-free'). Local standards in some supplier countries may classify goods ‘asbestos-free’ where they meet a certain low level of asbestos content. In Australia, a product found with any level of asbestos is prohibited for import or use.
For further information about Bunsen Burner Gauze mats visit www.asbestossafety.gov.au/importing-advice or contact SafeWork NSW on 13 10 50.