The Block 2015: How to protect yourself from hazardous materials

Information verified correct on December 5th, 2016

Blockheads faced a major setback last night when an excavator hit a gas pipe, so how can renovators go about mitigating hazards on site?

The Block Hazardous Materials

With just three hours until tools down, an unexpected gas leak put The Block under major threat during last night’s episode. An excavator hit a gas pipe (which wasn’t on the plan) and the local gas authority and fire brigade were soon on their way to assess the site, forcing contestants to evacuate the building.

As their guest bedroom and ensuite renovations came to a crashing halt, yet another spanner was thrown in the works for the Block newbies.

The Blocktagon is positioned right near a petrol station, so the gas leak was particularly concerning for all involved. Despite previous noise complaints and fire drills disrupting the local neighbourhood, the council provided a one hour extension for the use of power tools, which gave contestants some relief for the all-nighter that lay ahead.

The smell of the gas was described as “overwhelming” and as Scott Cam pointed out, a tiny spark could cause an explosion.

So how can you protect yourself from site hazards when undergoing a renovation?

Hazardous materials in construction

Renovations often involve use of hazardous materials and chemicals which can have serious health implications if they are not identified and managed correctly.

Materials such as lead and asbestos, as well as dust and fumes in timber or paint products can affect one’s health as well as the environment. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals commonly found in paints, cleaning products and manufactured timber, and fumes in VOCs can be potentially toxic.

Exposure to certain materials and chemicals can potentially cause nausea, respiratory problems, nerve damage, poisoning, and much more.

It’s therefore important, particularly when undertaking DIY projects, that you understand the range of hazardous materials that you may come in contact with, and how you can take steps to mitigate your exposure and risk to these chemicals.

How to safeguard yourself from hazardous materials

Assess the work site

When planning a renovation project, you should identify hazardous elements on the site and have them tested by a qualified specialist. This will enable you to determine the severity of the hazardous materials and take required precautions to mitigate risks to both you and your family.

Prevention

Effective site preparation can help minimise or prevent your exposure to hazardous elements, and here are some ways that you can lessen the risk of hazardous materials;

  • Lay plastic sheeting under the site area to prevent dust seeping into the ground.
  • Close windows and seal vents and open spaces to prevent dust from moving into non-work areas.
  • Cover air conditioning and central heating ducts.
  • When using VOCs (e.g. paint or glue), open outside windows and doors to allow for ventilation.
  • Avoid drinking or eating on site as this may encourage inhalation of dust or fumes.
  • Be careful when using water around electrical fittings.
  • Use non-power tools when possible as they generate less dust.
  • Use the relevant Australian Standard approved respirator or dust mask required for the job (refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines when using equipment).
  • Wear safety goggles or glasses to protect your eyes.
  • Clean the site at the end of each day and dispose of waste at the relevant waste site.

Guest bedroom and ensuite results

As contestants were under the pump with just a few hours to make the final touches on their guest bedroom and ensuite, and with $10,000 up for grabs for the winning team, the pressure was palpable.

Once again, Shay and Dean were granted the winning score of 27.5/30. Now the other contestants are on a mission to knock them off their pedestal and break their winning streak.

With specific design elements and bizarre planning decisions polarizing the judges, this is what they had to say about the contestants guest bedroom and ensuites.

ContestantsJudges ScoreFeedback
Shay and DeanDarren: 9/10
Shaynna: 9/10
Neale: 9.5/10
Final score: 27.5/30 (winners)
Opting for a luxurious, industrial feel with a touch of Scandi, the judges were impressed with Shay and Dean’s delivery, as Neil said: “I think the  colour palette in here is beautiful.. I love that blue.. It’s a young style but in a kind of grown up way, which I think is kinda clever.”

For the ensuite, the judges agreed that it had a spacious feel, as Darren said: “This is the most spacious feeling bathroom that we’ve seen today, and the palette refers to the palette of the other bathroom, which is safe and consistent and clever.”

”They’re thinking about every single nuance of every choice that they make.”Shaynna went as far to say: “This says that these guys should have got the penthouse.”
Kingi and CaroDarren: 9/10
Shaynna: 9/10
Neale: 8.5/10
Final score: 26.5/30 (second place)
With a raw industrial theme and the vinyl wrapped tram door, Kingi and Caro created a sophisticated guest bedroom and ensuite.Shaynna said: “They’ve got the beautiful textures of the throw of the bed and the linen bedhead”, and Darren agreed saying: “You can really see which vibe they’re going for, I mean it’s clearly edgy, urban, a little bit industrial and raw, but a nice refined raw.”

The judges believed that the tram traffic on the ensuite door worked a treat, Shaynna said: “It is sensational and I’m dying to look at that handle...there’s just something about the handle that spells luxury, that spells money.”

Shaynna commended the contestants for embracing the non-square angles of the room: “The angles in here are so hard to work with but they’ve put the focus here (bedhead) so you’re not really thinking about there (odd angles),  and the wardrobe works really well.”Apart from the back-to-front vanity bowl, the judges believed that Kingi and Caro made good use of storage and space in the esuite. Darren believed that there was more room squeezed into this ensuite that they’d seen in some of the main bathrooms: “The vanity solution and all that storage and the fact that you’ve got lighting above you is very successful.”
Suzi and VoniDarren: 8.5/10
Shaynna: 7/10
Neale: 7.5/10
Final score: 23/30 (third place)
Suzi and Voni took a risk with their glass panel feature wall which divided the judges: “It’s going to be polarizing.. personally I don’t like it”, Shaynna said.Neil went as far to describe the glass feature as overwhelming: “It’s almost freaking me out actually.”

However, despite these comments, Darren liked their feature wall: “I don’t agree with you both. I like all of it, I think it’s cool”, he said.“As a guest bedroom this is interesting and the colour scheme is beautiful… the colours in here really light me up.”

In terms of storage, Shaynna thought that the walk-in wardrobe showcased careful and clever planning.For the guest ensuite, Neil said: “It’s almost lacking in impact, it’s very understated. But you know what? I’m relieved because if there’d been another big idea waiting in here I would have gone right for the hills.”

The judges thought that the tapware for the guest ensuite was beautiful and the layout worked well, as Shaynna said: “I do enjoy how brave they are, their courage, their spunk, their energy and their love of colour, but they need to make it fit”, she said.
Andrew and WhitneyDarren: 6.5/10
Shaynna: 6/10
Neale: 6/10
Final score: 18.5/30
Although Whitney went out on a whim with her branch concept (in lieu of a wardrobe), the judges were unimpressed with some of the design choices.As Darren said: “There is absolutely no hanging space… I wouldn’t try and sell this apartment without one [a wardrobe].”

The judges thought that the room didn’t work well seamlessly: “It’s a really confused room, I don’t know if I’m in an old hotel or a luxury apartment or what”, Neil said.And as Shaynna added: “They’ve gone a little bit of retro with a bit of Scandi.. there’s nothing that gels… there’s quirky and then there’s quirky”, she said.Neil commented on the inconsistency of the elements across the bedroom and the ensuite as an entity: “Visually, I like what they’ve chosen, I like this unit here. As an ensuite bathroom, it’s not bad but it bears no relationship to what’s going on in there and in that respect, it’s as confused as the bedroom, because they’re showing us completely different style again.”The judges agreed that Whitney and Andrew need to re-focus, and if they have any budget to spare towards the end of the series, they should revisit these rooms.
Luke and EbonyDarren: 6/10
Shaynna: 6/10
Neale: 6/10
Final score: 18/30 (last place)
Vintage, with a modern twist. That’s the feel that Luke and Ebony envisaged for their guest bedroom and ensuite.However, the judges felt that the contestants made some poor layout decisions.As Darren pointed out: “Look where you’re standing, look how narrow that is. If you open both these doors, I’m trapped...such bad planning.”

The judges were far from impressed by the choice of pressed tin as their design element for the room: “I can’t imagine why you’d choose this as your decorative element”, Neil said.However, the contestants received slightly more positive feedback for the ensuite in terms of positioning: “The actual execution is one of the best we’ve seen today”, Neil said.Despite this, the judges agreed that the choice of tiles were out-dated and Neil went as far to say that “I don’t think this room would appeal to anyone.”

The final comments from the judges were that Luke and Ebony need to put more “soul” into their renovations.

The next episode of The Block: Blocktagon airs tonight, Monday September 21 at 7:30pm on Nine.

Belinda Punshon

Belinda is a journalist here at finder.com.au. Specialising in the home loans and property sections, she is passionate about helping Australians improve their financial wellbeing.

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