Asbestos in the workplace
Asbestos was used in over 3,000 products and can be found in many buildings and structures built or renovated before 1990.
Work health and safety (WHS) laws prohibit work involving asbestos apart from in specific circumstances where strict safety rules are required to be followed.
In most circumstances, the law requires asbestos to be removed from workplaces by a licensed asbestos removalist.
If you manage or control a workplace (including being a commercial property owner) the WHS laws contain a range of duties to protect the health and safety of workers and the general public.
How to find out if a building or structure contains asbestos
You can’t tell if a material contains asbestos just by looking at it. Only scientific testing of a sample can confirm this.
Workplaces in buildings built before a certain date are required to have an asbestos register which lists all identified or assumed asbestos in the workplace.
The register should be looked at before starting any building work, including maintenance and minor alternations, to ensure it remains undisturbed.
If you are a tradie it is likely that you regularly come across asbestos when working on residential homes.
Most residential homes are not required to have an asbestos register and owners (or tenants) may not be aware that there is asbestos present. If you are self-employed it is your responsibility to control exposure to airborne asbestos fibres when working. If you are employed by someone, then they are responsible for complying with WHS laws.
These information brochures contain information for specific trades:
- asbestos awareness information for the automotive industry and historic vehicle enthusiasts
- asbestos safety for trades and construction workers
- asbestos awareness information for the fire protection trades
- asbestos awareness information for electricians
- asbestos awareness information for plumbers
If you’re a worker in a workplace that contains asbestos and think it is causing harm you should tell your employer or health and safety representative and if that fails to resolve your concern you should contact the work health and safety regulator in your state or territory. If you think your work has disturbed asbestos, stop what you are doing and let your employer or health and safety representative know.
What rules apply to asbestos in workplaces
WHS laws dealing with asbestos are broadly similar around Australia but there are some important differences which makes it necessary to check the laws in your state or territory.
You can find details of the laws on the Safe Work Australia website.
Asbestos assessors and removal
You can find details on asbestos assessors and removalists by contacting the relevant authority in your state or territory on our asbestos safety concerns page.
Asbestos and insurance
Disaster events such as fires, floods, storms and cyclones occur regularly in Australia.
Cleaning up after a disaster event is significantly more dangerous and more expensive for properties where asbestos is present, and you may find that your insurance doesn’t provide the cover you need.
You can lower your risk of accidental damage and uninsured costs if you check and plan for the presence of asbestos before disaster strikes and, if possible, have it safely removed.
Find out more on our asbestos and insurance page.