Find and identify asbestos for employers who don't own their premises
As an employer who has management or control of their business premises, you have legal duties in relation to managing and removing asbestos at your workplace.
Use this checklist to help you find and identify asbestos in your workplace.
Ask for the asbestos register from your building manager or owner
Your building owner or manager must provide you with a copy of the asbestos register for your building or structure. This will help you determine whether any of your work is likely to disturb or damage the asbestos. If you think there is a risk because of asbestos in the building or structure, you should notify your building manager or owner. You can find more information about asbestos registers in the Manage Asbestos section
Identify whether any plant or equipment contains asbestos
Asbestos was widely used in the mid-1980s in gasket and friction brake products and, despite a large reduction in its use, it was still known to be used in some plant applications until recent years.
You should talk to the supplier, manufacturer or designer of your plant to find out if it contains asbestos. If possible, get this advice in writing. If this isn’t possible, you should refer to the design plans and seek advice from an experienced engineer or plant designer.
Talk to employees who have worked there for a long time
Experienced employees may know where asbestos is located in the workplace. They may also be aware of the history of the building, including its age, construction and subsequent renovations or repairs.
If you don’t consult with employees when trying to identify asbestos, you risk missing important information and you may be breaking the law. It’s a good idea to keep a written record of discussions with employees to help with future asbestos identification.
Do a walkthrough inspection to find asbestos
Conduct a thorough inspection of all buildings and structures including all rooms and spaces, ceiling spaces, cellars, shafts, storage areas and wall cavities.
You must assume material contains asbestos when
- it can’t be identified
- it can’t be accessed
- you otherwise can’t be sure it doesn’t contain asbestos.
The design plans for a building, structure, ship or plant may help in identifying inaccessible areas. Talking to builders, architects, manufacturers of plant and maintenance employees can also help. Experience and findings from inspections of similar sections of the building (or similar buildings) may also be helpful.
It’s important to take notes and photos during your inspection because the notes can be used to produce the asbestos register. You can find more information about asbestos registers in the Manage Asbestos section
Use a competent person to identify asbestos
Anyone inspecting for asbestos, determining risk, or recommending control measures must be competent to do so.
To be competent a person should:
- have appropriate training, knowledge and experience in identifying suspected asbestos materials and be able to determine risk and appropriate controls
- be familiar with building and construction practices to determine where asbestos is likely to be present
- be able to determine that material may be friable or non-friable and evaluate its condition.
If there isn’t a competent person within your organisation, you should use an external provider; for example, a consultant.
Selecting an external provider
When selecting an external provider, you should consider:
- their background and experience
- their specific expertise
- their qualifications or professional affiliations
- references from previous work (consider asking for examples of reports prepared for other clients).
An example of a suitably competent person may be an occupational hygienist with experience in identifying asbestos and assessing its associated risks.
An occupational hygienist who specialises in asbestos can provide advice on:
- identifying asbestos in a workplace
- developing an employer’s/self-employed persons asbestos register
- reviewing an asbestos register
- the sampling of asbestos fibres and the measure of these to the asbestos exposure standard
- the determination of minor contamination
- provision of a clearance certificate
You can find a qualified Occupational Hygienist through the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists.
A suitably competent person may be found at companies approved by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) for the identification of asbestos.
Take a sample of the asbestos
Samples are taken for the purpose of determining if asbestos is present, it is important that representative samples are taken. If there are variations in appearance, texture or colour of the material you’ll need to take additional samples for consistency and valid analysis. For example, full-thickness samples of friable material back to the substrate should be taken. You should also consider taking samples from difficult areas where there is evidence of previous asbestos removals.
The analysis must be undertaken by a person who is suitably trained and experienced in a safe method of taking samples of asbestos-containing materials.
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. People taking samples should assess the risk and implement appropriate controls. These may include the use of a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtered vacuum cleaner and a water spray bottle to suppress airborne dust (a respirator – approved by AS/NZS 1716:2003 Respiratory protective devices – may also be used to minimise exposure).
Samples need to be placed in sealed containers (for example, snap-lock durable bags) and appropriately labelled so that it’s clear where the sample was taken.
Arrange for analysis of asbestos samples
Under Victoria's OHS regulations, only approved analysts can analyse samples containing asbestos.
An approved asbestos analyst is an analyst approved by 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.
Before you take a sample to a laboratory, you should confirm the laboratory is accredited to perform asbestos analysis. You can do this by visiting NATA
The laboratory will give you a report of your asbestos sample. Endorsed reports have the NATA insignia stamped on the report. You should keep the endorsed report as evidence of compliance.