Asbestos safety

Since 1 January 2008, a bonded asbestos licence (Licence type AS2) has been required to remove more than 10 square metres of bonded asbestos material. A friable asbestos licence (Licence type AS1) is required to remove, repair or disturb any amount of friable (can be crumbled, pulverized or reduced to power by hand pressure when dry) asbestos. A friable asbestos removalist can remove any quantity of bonded and/or friable asbestos.

Effects on health

Asbestos is formed in fibre bundles and, as it is further processed or distrubed, the fibre bundles become progressively finer and more hazardous to health. Breathing in fibres brings a risk of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

There is no cause for concern if your home contains asbestos material that is kept in good condition. Asbestos is only a problem when it becomes damaged or when it is disturbed, creating airborne asbestos fibres. These fibres can be released into the air when asbestos products are incorrectly handled, stored or transposted for disposal.

Safety checklist

Do not use power tools
Asbestos fibres can be released if power tools are used for anything other than the removal of screws.

Do not water blast or scrub with a stiff broom or brush
It is illegal to water blast asbestos-cement sheets. If the material has been accidentally water blasted or has suddenly deteriorated in some way, you should call a licensed asbestos removal contractor.

Wet gently with water
When removing fibro sheets, wet gently with water, whenever possible, to minimise any release of fibres. Remember do not water blast. Be careful when on roofs, as asbestos sheets are brittle and slippery when wet.

Avoid drilling and cutting into asbestos products
Do not drill holes through eaves, flues or vents, as these may also be asbestos products. Never cut into a fibro sheet. Instead remove the entire sheet and replace it with a non-asbestos product.

Let people know
Talk it over with those who may be affected by the removal and disposal of your fibro, such as neighbours. Protect surrounding environments from the work area (other parts of the building, neighbours etc)

Cover up / Personal Protective Clothing
You should wear disposable overalls and an appropriate dust mask if you are working with asbestos products. Make sure your mask has two straps to hold it firmly in place. Don't use masks that only have one.

Don't drop fibro sheets
Remove asbestos sheets carefully. Lower, don't drop them to the ground with minimum breakage.

Council's role

Significant building work, demolition work and renovations require Council approval under the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979.  Before starting any work of this nature, check with Council's Planning and Regulatory Services section to see if approval is required or if there are any specific requirements relating to your proposal. 

Council also has investigation and enforcement powers under the Protection of the Environment Operation Act 1997 and the Contaminated Land Management Act 1997 to address pollution.

Workcover NSW's role

Under occupational health and safety laws Workcover NSW regulates employee safety on building sites where paid workers are undertaking works.

For further information on working safely with asbestos please visit the WorkCover website or phone the asbestos demolition hotline on (02) 8260 5885.  Workcover also provides the 'Working with Asbestos Guide' which contains information on identifying, licencing and working with asbestos.  The guide can be downloaded from the Workcover web site.

Contact Details

Planning & Regulatory Services
Phone: (02) 6828 1399