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AWARENESS

Where Can You Find Asbestos?

Although banned in Australia in 2003, asbestos can still be found in our homes, workplaces and in the environment. Between 1920 and 2003, Australia consumed 12.8 million tonnes of asbestos-containing material, much of which remains.

Common Areas

It is estimated that one third of Australian homes still contain asbestos in some form. As it was used in over 3000 products, asbestos can also be found in many buildings and structures built or renovated before 1990.

You cannot tell if something contains asbestos just by looking at it. Scientific testing of a sample is the only way you can completely confirm this. However, you can become familiar with what materials usually contain asbestos and where asbestos is generally found. If you are unsure if something contains asbestos, you should always treat it as though it does.

There is no known safe level of asbestos exposure.

  • Asbestos cement building products used to build homes and fences
  • Insulation (such as in roofs and conduits)
  • Walls and textured paint
  • Water pipes
  • Brake linings and clutches
  • Adhesives
  • Vinyl floor tiles
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Thermal insulations boards in schools
  • Electrical meter boards
  • Gaskets
  • Popcorn ceilings
  • Downpipes and gutters
  • Flues such as for gas heaters
  • Gables and eaves
  • Cladding for walls and ceilings
  • Backing for tiles and kitchen splashbacks
  • Underneath carpet or vinyl flooring
  • Outbuildings like garden sheds, carports, kennels or outdoor toilets
  • Imitation brick cladding
  • and more…

Gallery

If you want to find out if a property contains asbestos, an assessment can be done by an asbestos professional. Using an asbestos professional who is qualified in the removal and safe handling of asbestos is always the best option. If you do not own the property, you should contact the property manager or owner first. If you are buying a pre-1990 property, you should ask about asbestos and get the place assessed as part of the building inspection report.

The ACM Check app is a useful tool to help identify if asbestos might be on the property (find in App Store or Google Play). The Victorian government also has this find and identify asbestos tool and the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency is a reliable source of information.

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Where in the environment is Asbestos found?

Asbestos can contaminate the land through incorrect demolition or removal, illegal burial, storm damage, fire damage and former asbestos waste sites. Asbestos in its natural form is in many areas of Australia as it is a naturally occurring mineral. Therefore, caution should be taken when performing work or activities that could disturb naturally occurring asbestos, as fibres can be released in the air and inhaled. A major problem is illegal dumping of asbestos and this should be reported immediately to the local council or Environmental Protection Authority.

Planning a home renovation?

Asbestos-containing materials (ACM’s) were used extensively in Australia through the 20th century.  Most houses built or renovated prior to 1990 contain asbestos in some form.

To minimise the risk of exposure to asbestos, it is important homeowners identify where ACM’s could be found. This includes checking both inside and outside of the house as well as any additional structures on the property. Whilst some ACM’s may seem easy to recognise, others are not. You can’t tell just by looking at it and asbestos lurks in more places than you’d think.

There is the risk of asbestos exposure when ACM’s are damaged, disturbed or deteriorating. Do NOT use power tools, compressed air or high-pressured water an anything that may contain asbestos. If in doubt, assume the material does contain asbestos and call in the professionals.

The safe handling and/or removal of asbestos should be carried out by a licensed professional. For more information contact the work health and safety regulator in your state.


 

Asbestos in the home

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Asbestos in the workplace

An asbestos register that lists all assumed or identified asbestos is required for workplaces and buildings built before a certain date. Before starting any work, the register should be looked at to ensure asbestos remains undisturbed. It is likely most tradies regularly come across asbestos, particularly when working on residential homes. Homeowners or tenants may be unaware if asbestos is present as most residential homes are not required to have an asbestos register. It is your own responsibility to control your exposure to asbestos if you are self-employed. But if you are employed by someone, it is their responsibility to comply with WHS laws.

If you think you have come across asbestos or believe asbestos in the workplace is causing harm, STOP what you are doing and tell your employer or health and safety representative. If you’re still concerned, contact the work health and safety regulator in your state or territory. Whilst WHS laws are similar around Australia, there are some important differences, so it is worth finding out the details on the Safe Work Australia website to check the laws in your area.

The safe handling and/or removal of asbestos should be carried out by a licensed professional. For more information contact the work health and safety regulator in your state.

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What rules apply to Asbestos?

It is the responsibility of the homeowner when it comes to dealing with asbestos. We all have a responsibility not to harm those around us.

A residence or home becomes a workplace when a tradesperson performs work on the property. This includes any job whether painting or full home renovations and means that work health and safety (WHS) laws apply. This also applies if you do not own the property, and means the legal duties are placed on the contractor not the homeowner.

Work involving asbestos is prohibited against work health and safety (WHS) laws, except for specific circumstances where strict safety rules are put in place. In most circumstances, the law requires a licensed asbestos removalist to remove asbestos from workplaces. In order to protect the health and safety of workers and the general public, the WHS laws contain a range of duties that need to be followed if you control or manage a workplace or commercial property.

All states and territories across Australia have requirements to not pollute the environment or unlawfully dispose of asbestos. Laws must be followed when transporting or disposing asbestos, and asbestos waste can only be disposed of at a licensed facility. Illegal disposing of asbestos includes putting it in a waste skip, in the bush and in a domestic rubbish bin and big penalties apply. The wrapping, labelling and transporting of asbestos waste also has its own set of rules.

If you have concerns about work being undertaken either on private or public area including illegal dumping or mishandling of asbestos head to the Asbestos Safety concerns page to find a contact near you.