WorkSafe has been made aware of concerns that asbestos-containing material may be present in some gauze mats commonly used in laboratories. These gauze mats typically have a ceramic disk in the centre, and are often used with bunsen burners.
Image: Example of a gauze laboratory mat.
The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 prohibit a range of activities including the 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
Even if a mat contains asbestos, the risk from normal use will generally be extremely low. Free fibre release into the air will be minimal. Over time, particles and debris may break off during use or through abrasion or impact in storage. These do not represent an airborne risk.
Stop using your mats and find out if they contain asbestos
WorkSafe advises all Victorian laboratories to 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 could 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 in accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017. If you are in any doubt about whether the gauze mats contain asbestos, dispose of them as if they do contain it.
For more information about removing and disposing of products containing asbestos, see WorkSafe's Compliance code: Removing asbestos in the workplace.
Check when you buy new gauze mats
If you are buying gauze mats, ask your supplier for documentation confirming there is no asbestos in the products (even though they may be labelled as 'asbestos-free').
If you're unsure, get advice
If you're unsure about what to do, contact WorkSafe's Advisory Service for more information.