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Working on vehicles

Many vehicles produced before 2003 are likely to have asbestos-containing components that remain in the vehicle until replacement is required. Motor vehicle repair and maintenance work may therefore involve the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres from asbestos-containing components such as brake pads/shoes, gaskets and clutch plates.

As an employer (including self-employed persons), if you need to work on vehicles that contain asbestos components, you must eliminate the exposure of persons in the workplace to airborne asbestos fibres, so far as is reasonably practicable. If exposure to airborne asbestos fibres cannot be eliminated, you must reduce the exposure, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Prohibitions on the use of asbestos-containing products came into effect across Australia on 31 December 2003, and replacement brake pads, brake shoes and clutch plates fitted to vehicles in Victoria after this date must be asbestos free.

Note that, while vehicles that were manufactured after this time should not contain asbestos components, vehicles imported from certain countries may still contain these components due to differing regulatory environments.

Use this checklist to help you safely find, manage and dispose of asbestos from motor vehicle components.

  1. Find and identify asbestos

    Identifying asbestos-containing components in vehicles can be difficult if there is an absence of identifying marks, service records or supplier details. If there is uncertainty (based on reasonable grounds) as to whether any of the components are likely to contain asbestos, then you must either:

    · assume asbestos is present, or

    · arrange for analysis of a sample to be undertaken.

    Samples should be taken in a controlled manner that does not create a risk to the person taking the sample, or people who will work or visit the area where the sample was taken. Under Victoria's OHS Regulations, only an approved asbestos analyst can analyse samples that may contain asbestos.

    An approved asbestos analyst is an analyst approved by National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) to perform asbestos fibre counting or to identify asbestos in samples and to issue findings as endorsed reports under the authority of a NATA-accredited laboratory.

  2. Control

    Asbestos-containing brake pads, brake shoes and clutch plates wear during use, leaving a coating of asbestos fibres and dust on the component and surrounding parts. Asbestos-containing cylinder heads and exhaust gaskets can become friable (powdery) with heat and readily release dust and fibres when disturbed. Dry brushing any of these components or even tapping them, for example, can release large quantities of asbestos fibres into the air.

    Asbestos fibres can spread large distances and may remain airborne for many hours after the job is finished. In this way the fibres can spread to other areas, posing a risk to other persons in the workshop.

    For detailed information on how to safely control asbestos in motor vehicle components, see WorkSafe's guidance note Asbestos containing products in motor vehicle workshops.

  3. Packaging

    When packaging asbestos waste for disposal, you first need to establish the specific packaging requirements of the disposal site you plan to use, otherwise it may not be accepted. Packaged asbestos waste must also comply with requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017. For example, the exterior of the container must be decontaminated before being removed from the area where the removal work is performed and it must also be clearly marked to indicate that it holds asbestos.

    Find out more about how to package different types of asbestos.

  4. Disposal

    When the asbestos removal is finished, you must ensure that the asbestos waste is:

    (a) disposed of as soon as is reasonably practicable, and

    (b) disposed of in an appropriate manner that eliminates the release of airborne asbestos fibres, and

    (c) disposed of at a waste disposal site licensed by the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA).

    Disposal must only be undertaken at a site licensed by the EPA to accept waste asbestos. If you intend to dispose of asbestos waste (both industrial and domestically sourced) you should contact the disposal site operator to check whether the site is appropriately licensed to accept the waste, accepts your volumes of asbestos waste, and any particular packaging requirements.

    Find your nearest disposal site that is licensed to handle asbestos.

  5. Transport

    The transport of asbestos waste for the purpose of disposal must be undertaken in a way that eliminates the release of airborne asbestos fibres, which means ensuring:

    - asbestos waste is securely packaged in containers
    - waste containers are secure during transport
    - the method of unloading the waste is safe.

    The EPA controls the transportation of asbestos waste of industrial origin. Owners of vehicles that transport industrial-sourced asbestos waste must hold a waste transport permit.

    Further details on the transportation of asbestos is also available. 

    For further information refer to the Removing asbestos in workplaces compliance code.