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Working safely with asbestos

If you have to work with asbestos, such as removing, drilling, cutting or cleaning, you need to understand the legal requirements and how to start planning the work.

Answer these simple questions, and scroll down to get to the right advice.

 

How are you working with asbestos?





The type of asbestos is:

  • Friable asbestos products are generally quite loose and, when dry, can be crumbled into fine material or dust with very light pressure, such as crushing with your hand. These products usually contain high levels of asbestos (up to 100% in some cases), which is loosely held in the product so that the asbestos fibres are easily released into the air.

    If disturbed, friable asbestos products are dangerous because the asbestos fibres can get into the air very easily, and may be inhaled by people living or working in the area.

    Bonded asbestos products that have been damaged or badly weathered (including hail damage), may also become friable.


  • Non-friable (bonded) asbestos products are made from a bonding compound (such as cement) mixed with a small proportion (usually less than 15%) of asbestos. Bonded asbestos products are solid, rigid and non-friable, and cannot be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to powder by hand pressure. The asbestos fibres are tightly bound in the product and are not normally released into the air.

    Common names for bonded asbestos products are 'fibro', 'asbestos cement' and 'AC sheeting'.

    When they're in good condition, bonded asbestos products do not normally release any asbestos fibres into the air. They are considered a very low risk for people who are in contact with them, as long as appropriate safety precautions are used when they are disturbed.

    However, when bonded asbestos products are damaged or badly weathered (including hail damage), areas may become friable.



The amount of asbestos will also determine how it should be removed

The amount of asbestos is:

  • Rule of thumb 102 metres = approximately the size of an average bedroom wall



Where is the work being conducted?




Ok finally we need to know where this is happening

Where is the work taking place?




If you have the power to make decisions about and changes to the structure and use of the workplace, then you have management or control. If you are an employer who doesn’t own the premises in which you operate your business - for example, if you lease or rent your premises - then you are unlikely to have management or control of the workplace. You should check your leasing agreement to establish to what extent you may have management or control.

Do you have management or control?




If you have the power to make decisions about and changes to the structure and use of the workplace, then you have management or control. If you are an employer who doesn’t own the premises in which you operate your business - for example, if you lease or rent your premises - then you are unlikely to have management or control of the workplace. You should check your leasing agreement to establish to what extent you may have management or control.

Do you have management or control?




Who is conducting the work?




Working safely with asbestos as a vehicle repairer

Prohibitions on the supply, sale, storage, use, re-use, installation and transport of asbestos-containing products came into effect across Australia on 31 December 2003. Replacement brake pads, brake shoes and clutch plates that are to be fitted to vehicles in Victoria must be asbestos free.

Despite the prohibitions, the potential for exposure to airborne asbestos fibres in motor vehicle workshops may still remain until asbestos components have been progressively removed from older vehicles.

For further guidance on:

  • Identification of asbestos-containing components
  • Controlling the risk to health from asbestos exposure through
    • Containment of dust during removal and handling, and
    • Safe disposal of components.
Please consult the information that applies to dealing with Asbestos products in vehicles.

Painting, drilling, cutting or preparing for cleaning in the home

When your home has been built with asbestos-containing material there are things you must DO and other things you DON’T do. Some of these include

DO

  • isolate the area you are working on from the rest of the building by closing and sealing internal doors
  • leave external doors and windows open to maximise ventilation
  • cover the floor with heavy-duty plastic sheeting to catch dust, debris and offcuts
  • keep household members, visitors and pets away from the area until the work is completed.

DON’T

  • spread asbestos dust through areas of the building that are not protected by plastic sheeting (e.g. by walking through unprotected)
  • Don’t use your normal vaccuum cleaner as it will spread the asbestos fibres
  • Don’t sweep up any dust

For more advice on what steps you DO and DON’T need go to Dos and don'ts for working with asbestos

Painting, drilling, cutting or preparing for cleaning in the workplace

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations Part 4.3 Asbestos (in Division 8) identify certain activities as “asbestos-related activities”. The regulations require employers to, amongst other things:

  • identify when any asbestos-related activities are to occur
  • get a copy of the asbestos register from the person with management or control of the workplace
  • implement a range of defined safety processes to eliminate, or where this is not practicable, reduce the risk so far as is practicable of exposing anyone in their workplace to asbestos fibres

To assist with some of these tasks the following guidance should be considered:

And the publication:

Removing friable asbestos in the home

Friable asbestos material should only be removed by a Class A licensed asbestos removalist.

Removing friable asbestos in the workplace

Friable asbestos material should be removed only by a licensed asbestos removalist.

Friable asbestos products (such as spray-on insulation or old lagging around pipes) can produce airborne fibres during normal use or ageing. Crumbling bonded materials, and all friable products, must be carefully managed to prevent the release of fibres into the air.

Legal Requirement

If a workplace needs friable asbestos removed then this must always be performed by the holder of a Class A asbestos removal licence. The person with management or control of the workplace (which could be a commercial property owner) needs to arrange this removal.

If the friable asbestos material has been introduced to the workplace in a piece of plant or equipment then whoever has management or control over that plant or equipment is responsible for arranging the removal by a licensed asbestos removalist.

You may also wish to view

Removing more than 10² metres of asbestos in the home

A homeowner should use a licensed asbestos removalist if disturbing large amounts of non-friable asbestos when making alterations to their residence.

Removing > 10² metres of asbestos in the workplace

An employer is required to use an appropriately licensed asbestos removalist if they plan to remove greater than 10 square metres of non-friable asbestos from their workplace

Find a Removalist using our provider directory

Note:

Suppliers holding a Class A licenses are qualified to remove friable asbestos

Suppliers holding a Class B licenses are qualified to remove only non-friable asbestos

Self-removal of < 10² metres of asbestos in the home

Undisturbed asbestos cement materials in good condition are considered a very low risk because the asbestos fibres are bound together in solid cement. It is best to leave them alone but check from time to time for any signs of damage or deterioration. However, if the material is damaged, or is disturbed by breaking, cutting, drilling or sanding, fibres may then be released into the air increasing the risk they will be breathed in.

Householders are strongly advised to engage experienced and licensed professionals to undertake home renovations where asbestos is likely to be present and/or to undertake asbestos removal. 

Where householders do make the decision to undertake home renovations where asbestos is, or may be, present, this website and the enHealth, Asbestos: A guide for householders and the general public document provides useful information to minimise the associated risks.

Plan

Before starting any work involving asbestos materials, you should assess the size and nature of the job, and your ability to complete the task. If the job appears to be complex, or beyond your ability, employ a qualified tradesperson. If you decide to go ahead yourself, assess the number of sessions that will be necessary to complete the work. You should then obtain enough suitable equipment to carry out the work.

For advice on removing small quantities of non-friable asbestos safely go to Homeowner Removal

Self-removal of < 10² metres of asbestos in the workplace

Under Victorian law, an employer or self-employed person can conduct a limited amount of asbestos removal work without a licence if:

  • the asbestos-containing material is non-friable; and
  • the area of asbestos-containing material to be removed does not exceed 10 square metres in total; and
  • the total time asbestos removal work is performed in any period of seven days does not exceed one hour (this period is the cumulative
  • total time the asbestos removal work is carried out by all employees over a period of seven days).

Further information on the requirements for training, signage, personal protective equipment, decontamination processes, packaging of asbestos waste and disposal requirements can be found in the Removing Asbestos in Workplaces Compliance Code.

All other non-friable asbestos and all friable asbestos must always be removed by a Licensed Asbestos Removalist.

Engaging a licensed asbestos removalist

A licensed asbestos removalist knows how to safely remove asbestos without risk to you or your neighbours.

This information will help you to engage the right licensed asbestos removalist for your job.

I'm engaging a builder or tradesperson to remove less than 10² metres

When bringing a builder or tradesperson into your domestic premise, for the time they are there your domestic premise becomes their workplace. As a workplace, under the Victorian health and safety laws, an employer or self-employed person can conduct a limited amount of asbestos removal work without a licence if:

  • the asbestos-containing material is non-friable; and
  • the area of asbestos-containing material to be removed does not exceed 10 square metres in total; and
  • the total time asbestos removal work is performed in any period of seven days does not exceed one hour (this period is the cumulative
  • total time the asbestos removal work is carried out by all employees over a period of seven days).

Further information on the requirements for training, signage, personal protective equipment, decontamination processes, packaging of asbestos waste and disposal requirements can be found in the Removing Asbestos in Workplaces Compliance Code.

All other non-friable asbestos and all friable asbestos must always be removed by a Licensed Asbestos Removalist.

I am going to conduct the work myself

As a homeowner you should consider the information on the homeowner removal page.

Removing less than 10 sq metres - in the workplace with management or control

An employer, a self-employed person or a person who manages or controls a workplace (i.e. a commercial property owner) can  conduct a limited amount of asbestos removal work without a licence if:

  • the asbestos-containing material is non-friable; and
  • the area of asbestos-containing material to be removed does not exceed 10 square metres in total; and
  • the total time asbestos removal work is performed in any period of seven days does not exceed one hour (this period is the cumulative total time the asbestos removal work is carried out by all employees over a period of seven days).

Although unlicensed removal of asbestos is permitted in these circumstances, it is generally not recommended as it may be safer for a licensed asbestos removalist to perform the removal work

Further information on the requirements for training, signage, personal protective equipment, decontamination processes, packaging of asbestos waste and disposal requirements can be found in the Removing Asbestos in Workplaces Compliance Code.

If engaging a licensed asbestos removalist remember:

Class A licensed asbestos removalists can remove both friable and non-friable asbestos.

Class B licensed asbestos removalists can remove only non-friable asbestos.

Find a Removalist using our provider directory.

You may also wish to view the

Removing less than 10 sq metres - in the workplace without management or control

Please read the detailed information on the removal and disposal process for employers who do not own their own workplace.

Removing more than 10 sq metres - in the workplace with management or control

An employer, a self-employed person or a person who manages or controls a workplace must not perform asbestos removal work when more than 10 square metres of non- friable asbestos needs to be removed from the workplace. In order to remove such asbestos, you must engage an appropriately licensed asbestos removalist to undertake the task.

If engaging a licensed removalist remember:

Class A licensed asbestos removalists can remove both friable and non-friable asbestos.

Class B licensed asbestos removalists can remove only non-friable asbestos.

Find a Removalist using our provider directory.

You may also wish to view the

Removing more than 10 sq metres - in the workplace without management or control

Please read our detailed information on the removal and disposal process for employers who do not own their own workplace.