Asbestos

Working safely with asbestos

Working safely with asbestos in vehicles

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. For example, replacement brake pads, brake shoes and clutch plates that are to be fitted to vehicles in Victoria must not contain any asbestos.

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

Note also 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.

For further guidance on the identification of asbestos-containing components and controlling associated risks to health arising from exposure to asbestos, see dealing with asbestos products in vehicles.

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

When your home has been built with asbestos-containing material there are important things you should and should not do.

For more information go to Do's and don'ts for working with asbestos.

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

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations Part 4.4 Asbestos (in Division 8) identify certain activities as asbestos-related activities. Employers have specific duties when asbestos-related activities are undertaken in their workplace, including to:

  • identify when any asbestos-related activities are being carried out
  • get a copy of the asbestos register in relation to the activities from the person with management or control of the workplace
  • ensure that any asbestos-related activity is carried out in a manner that eliminates the release of airborne asbestos fibres, or if that is not reasonably practicable, control any risk associated with the activity by implementing risk control measures to enclose or seal the asbestos.

For more information see:

Friable
Friable asbestos products are generally quite loose and, when dry, can be crumbled into fine material or dust with 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.

However, when non-friable asbestos products are damaged or badly weathered (including hail damage) they may become friable.

Non-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.

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 must only be removed by a Class 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, the person with management or control of the workplace (such as a commercial property owner) needs to arrange the 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.

Additional duties apply for a person who commissions Class A asbestos removal from a workplace, plant or equipment over which they have management or control.

For more information about how to determine who has management or control of a workplace or of plant or structures in a workplace, and the associated duties, see the Removing asbestos in workplaces compliance code.

You may also wish to view

I am going to conduct the work myself

See the information on the homeowner removal page.

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.
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.

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

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

  • the removal of non-friable asbestos-containing material if:
    • 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).
  • the removal of asbestos-contaminated dust if:
    • the asbestos removal work does not exceed 10 minutes 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 the unlicensed removal of a limited amount of non-friable asbestos or asbestos-contaminated dust is permitted, it is generally not recommended. It is safer for a licensed asbestos removalist to perform the removal work.

Further information on the requirements for performing asbestos removal work, such as training, signage, personal protective equipment, decontamination processes, packaging of asbestos waste and disposal, can be found in the Removing asbestos in workplaces compliance code.

If you are 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 only remove non-friable asbestos.

Find a licenced removalist using our provider directory.

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

You are not responsible for managing or removing asbestos not under your management or control.

Please read the detailed information on the removal and disposal process for employers who do not have management or control of their workplace.

Removing more than 10 sq metres of asbestos in a home

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

Removing more than 10 sq metres - in a 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. A licensed asbestos removalist must be engaged to perform the work.

If you are engaging a licensed removalist remember:

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

Find a licensed removalist using our provider directory.

You may also wish to view the

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

Please read our detailed information on the removal and disposal process for employers who do not have management or control of their workplace.

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.

Reviewed 28 October 2019

Working safely with asbestos

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