What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a mineral fibre that was used extensively in the building and construction industry up to the early 1980s. Asbestos fibre dust is hazardous when inhaled.
Sources of asbestos
Asbestos was used widely in industrial, commercial and domestic applications.
Its common uses were:
- Asbestos cement products (asbestos sheeting for construction, wall sheets, eaves, super six fencing, tiles, pipes, etc)
- Sprayed-on fibre proofing/acoustic plaster for sound proofing
- Thermal insulation (pipe lagging, boiler insulation, etc)
- Raw unprocessed asbestos (asbestos rope, fire blankets, etc)
- Gaskets, brake linings and clutch facings
- Vinyl asbestos floor tiles, sheet floor coverings and asbestos underlays.
The most common domestic form is the Asbestos cement sheetings (includes fencing panels). These products generally have an asbestos content of less than 10 percent. Asbestos fibre is sealed in the cement and poses no significant hazard once the sheets or fencing panels are fixed in place.
Activities such as sawing, grinding or sanding asbestos products should be avoided as the asbestos dust created poses a health risk.
Requirements for removing asbestos
Contractors removing more than 0.5 square metres of friable asbestos (e.g. pipe lagging, insulation, and asbestos-backed vinyl tiles) require:
- An environmental authorisation (licence) as a 'Producer of Listed Waste' issued by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) under section 36 of the Environment Protection Act 1993 (EP Act); and
- A licence issued by SafeWork SA.
Contractors removing more than 10 square metres of non-friable asbestos (e.g. cement sheeting, vinyl floor tiles, water or flue pipes, or other asbestos-bonded products produced before 1980) require a relevant licence issued by SafeWork SA.
House holders can choose to engage the services of an asbestos removalist (refer to Yellow Pages), or remove and transport non-friable asbestos from their property themselves.
When a license is not required, the removal must be carried out in accordance with the Work, Health and Safety Regulations 2012, the Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos and Section 25 (General Environmental Duty) of the Environment Protection Act.
When removing asbestos sheets precautions should be taken:
- Close all windows and doors to prevent possible entry of asbestos
- Wet the asbestos cement with water before removal (if safe to do so) and keep it wet until packaged for transport
- Remove asbestos cement with minimal breakage
- Do not drop asbestos on the ground - lower sheets carefully
- Wear disposable coveralls, an approved respirator or a particle mask suitable for asbestos
- Do not use power tools to cut or remove asbestos, except if removing screws of fastenings
- If necessary, temporarily store removed asbestos on a plastic ground sheet out of high traffic areas.
Disposing of asbestos
Dispose of all non-friable asbestos waste promptly. For safety always:
- Wet all asbestos waste and place in thick plastic bags (200 micron), wrap in plastic sheets (200 micron) or place directly in plastic-lined bins or vehicles. Tape and label: 'CAUTION: ASBESTOS, DO NOT INHALE DUST'
- Transport the asbestos to a landfill or waste transfer station licensed by the EPA to receive asbestos.
A list of non-friable asbestos disposal sites can be found on the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) website.
The waste depot should be contacted before transferring the waste to arrange a time for it to be received.
Further advice on asbestos
For further advice on asbestos, phone SafeWork SA on 1300 365 255 or visit the following website: