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Working in domestic residences and commercial workplaces

As a self-employed builder or tradesperson, you may encounter asbestos when you are engaged to do work at both commercial and domestic sites, where you do not have management or control (for example a tradesperson attending a construction site to complete a specific job).

Self-employed persons (without employees) have a general duty to; so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminate the exposure of persons at a workplace to airborne asbestos fibres arising from work they undertake. If eliminating the exposure to airborne asbestos fibres is not reasonably practicable, they must reduce the exposure, so far as is reasonably practicable.

1. Attending a domestic residence

In general, domestic premises are not workplaces. This means that the duties which relate to asbestos in workplaces (including the duty to identify asbestos) do not apply to, for example, the homeowner or persons leasing the premises. In this case, the homeowner or occupier may not be aware that there is asbestos present within their premises and they are unlikely to have an asbestos register.

As a self-employed person working at a domestic residence, your general duty to eliminate or control exposure to asbestos applies in in relation to your conduct in undertaking work.

If you are engaged to perform demolition or refurbishment work at domestic premises, it becomes your workplace. In this case, you must identify asbestos under your management or control that is likely to be disturbed by the proposed demolition or refurbishment work.

If the proposed work is refurbishment work you must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the asbestos is removed. If the proposed work is demolition work you must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the asbestos is removed before demolition work is commenced.

The find and identify asbestos tool can help you find out where asbestos is commonly located in both domestic and commercial premises.

2. Attending a commercial workplace

If you are likely to disturb asbestos in order to complete your work, the person with management or control of the workplace must inform you that the work involves a risk of exposure to airborne asbestos fibres, and provide you with a copy of the asbestos register. Even if your work is not likely to disturb asbestos, they must provide you with access to the asbestos register if you request it.

If you are engaged to perform demolition or refurbishment work at a workplace, and (for any reason) there is no asbestos register for the workplace, you must not commence your work until you have determined whether asbestos is present in the area (including plant) that is being refurbished or demolished. Where there is uncertainty about the presence of asbestos, you must either assume it is present or arrange for analysis of a sample to be taken.

If you determine that asbestos is present, you have a duty to inform the person who has management or control of the workplace or plant. If the proposed work is refurbishment work, that person must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the asbestos is removed. If the proposed work is demolition work they must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the asbestos is removed before the demolition work is commenced.