National benchmark survey of awareness and attitudes to asbestos 2016

The 2016 national benchmark survey of awareness of and attitudes to asbestos has found that an increasing number of DIY home renovators do not feel they are informed enough about asbestos, despite the number of home renovations requiring asbestos removal rising in the last two years.

The agency conducted this survey as a follow-up to the 2014 baseline national survey, the first of its kind in Australia, to determine whether community awareness of and attitudes to asbestos have changed over time and what work the agency needs to do to improve awareness levels and achieve behaviour change. 

The 2016 survey also found almost a quarter of all home renovations in the last two years required asbestos removal, yet half of home renovators did not obtain an asbestos assessment from a qualified professional.

Of concern to the agency, 74 per cent of those surveyed have undertaken some home renovations themselves, some also using professional tradespeople, yet DIY home renovators had the largest declines in awareness and in desirable attitudes about asbestos.

Recognition of the danger of asbestos is high among the general population, and more people feel strongly that knowledge about asbestos is important; however, fewer home renovators feel sufficiently informed and knowledgeable about it today than two years ago.

Also of concern is that a significant proportion of home renovators are reluctant to pay for professional services like obtaining a proper asbestos assessment and the safe removal of asbestos. DIY home renovators are the most at-risk group of Australians for exposure to asbestos, after tradespeople, so a decline in their awareness is a major concern.

The results of the 2016 survey show there is an urgent need for more education among young home renovators about how to identify and safely remove and dispose of asbestos in order to prevent careless exposure to asbestos.

Key findings:

  • 76% of Australians felt it was important to be knowledgeable about asbestos (no change)
  • 52% strongly agreed it was important to be knowledgeable (up from 43%)
  • 49% said they felt knowledgeable about asbestos (down from 53%)
  • 53% of DIYers said they felt knowledgeable (down from 67%)
  • 78% of DIYers felt that knowledge of asbestos was important (down from 87%)
  • 84% of those aged over 50 felt knowledge was important compared to 70% of those under 50
  • 62% of those aged over 50 felt knowledgeable compared to 40% of those under 50
  • 39% of people who speak another language said they were knowledgeable of the dangers of asbestos compared to 53% who only speak English
  • 36% who speak another language said they felt informed about the dangers compared to 50% who only speak English
  • 74% of DIYers undertake some renovations themselves, either with or without assistance from professional tradespeople (down from 81%)
  • 47% of DIYers do not conduct a risk assessment for asbestos before renovating (up from 44%)
  • 32% of DIYers undertake the removal of the asbestos themselves (down from 36%)
  • 40% of estate agents/landlords believed that understanding asbestos is important (down from 50%)
  • 43% of landlords do not see it as their responsibility to find asbestos in their property.
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