Local government - Frequently asked questions – Asbestos

This publication is for: 
Public sector employers

This information is provided to guide local government officers as to WorkSafe’s legislation, guidance and general approach in relation to asbestos. Responses relate to work with asbestos at workplaces (ie not DIY/home handyperson).

Site requirements

  1. Where should asbestos removal boundaries be established for a demolition site?

Asbestos removal boundaries are determined by a risk assessment, considering issues such as:

The nature of the work, eg size of the job and space requirements for laying down the removed ACM;
Potential exposure to other workers or passers-by, ie the boundaries should, where practicable, be large enough to protect people who are not working on the ACM removal.

  1. What is the minimum acceptable standard for security barriers on a non-friable asbestos removal site?

The type of barrier will depend on the nature of the work (eg size of the job, work methods to be used) and the potential for others to enter the site. Eg work adjacent to a school or park would require a higher standard of barrier than a small job in an industrial area.

The minimum standard is the use of a tape barrier, where practicable (however, as above, this will not be sufficient in all circumstances). Signs should be used with the barrier where practical. In some cases, due to access restrictions, the use of a barrier may not be practicable and in these cases it may be useful to discuss the work beforehand with the neighbouring people.

Asbestos removal documentation

  1. Is there an acceptable standard for what should be in an asbestos removal plan for demolition of a cottage?

WorkSafe would look for a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) and a Demolition Work Plan for non-friable ACM removal during demolition of a dwelling.  A SWMS sets out the high risk activities, the risk of injury from related hazards, the controls to be implemented, the equipment to be used and any training needs.  A Demolition Work Plan is required under Regulation 3.123 and AS 2601 and contains details of the nature of the structure,  the proposed method of demolition, the method of handling and disposing of hazardous substances, and details of safety measures such as scaffolding, demolition exclusion zone and traffic management.

Asbestos removal methods

  1. Is it expected that water should be used to wet asbestos cement products prior to and during removal?

Yes, where practical and safe to do so (ie not where there is an electrical hazard or slip hazard).

  1. Is there any requirement to spray asbestos cement roofing with a PVA solution prior to removal?

Spraying asbestos cement roofing with PVA prior to removal is recommended, unless the roof is painted and the paint is in reasonable condition, or wet methods are used. (Wet methods must be used with caution during roof removal to avoid slip hazards.)

Spraying with PVA is not specified in the OSH Regulations, however, it is recommended in the Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos 2nd Edition [NOHSC: 2002(2005)], which is an approved Code of Practice. This Code of Practice contains work methods that help duty holders comply with OSH Regulation 5.49, which provides that as far as practicable no person in the asbestos work area is exposed to asbestos dust.

PVA may be diluted before application; users should refer to the manufacturer’s directions for use.

  1. What are considered acceptable methods for the removal of asbestos cement products prior to demolition of a building?

As far as practicable, work methods must minimise breakage of the asbestos cement sheets   and wet methods or PVA coating should be used (see also Q3 and Q4).

Fixings should be modified or removed where practicable and where this can be done with minimal breakage of the asbestos cement sheets, for example:

  • Using a chisel to remove the heads of fasteners;
  • Punching nails through the asbestos cement sheet;
  • Using an oxy torch to remove fixings; or
  • Similar methods that will not significantly damage the sheet.

Where it is not practicable to do this, a crowbar may be used to lever the sheets from the framework, however where this is done breakage should be minimised.

  1. When removing bolts from asbestos fencing is breaking the asbestos around the bolt an acceptable alternative to unbolting or using oxy cutting equipment?

No. This would be considered unnecessary breakage, which is counter to the Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos 2nd Edition [NOHSC: 2002(2005)] and to Regulation 5.49 in relation to minimising dust as far as is practicable.

  1. Does the Safe Work Australia Code of Practice “How to Safely Remove Asbestos (2011)” apply in WA?

No. This Code has not been approved for use in WA, and refers to the harmonised Work Health and Safety legislation which has not been introduced in WA. In WA the relevant approved code is the Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos 2nd Edition [NOHSC: 2002(2005)] which is available on the WorkSafe website.

  1. Is there a duty on people carrying out asbestos removal work without a licence to comply with certain sections of the Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos 2nd Edition [NOHSC: 2002(2005)? 

Yes. Regulation 5.45(2B) of the OSH Regulations 1996 requires that an employer, self-employed person, main contractor or the person having control of the workplace to ensure that any asbestos removal work involving less than 10 m2 of non-friable ACM is done in accordance with Part 9 of the Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos 2nd Edition [NOHSC: 2002(2005)].

  1. Is there a duty to inform people occupying nearby premises of non-friable asbestos removal work?

It is good practice to inform people in adjoining properties which might be affected by the asbestos removal activities (see section 7.1 of the Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos 2nd Edition [NOHSC: 2002(2005)]). However this is not mandated in regulations.

  1. Is there any specific guidance on acceptable methods for the removal of asbestos cement products in WA?

Yes, the Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos 2nd Edition [NOHSC: 2002(2005)], in particular Part 9 (General Requirements) and Part 12 (Examples of Specific Asbestos Removal Procedures). Part 9 is referenced in OSH Regulations and Part 12 may be used as a guide.

  1. Are workers removing asbestos cement products expected to take steps during the removal to prevent the contamination of soil with asbestos debris e.g. placing plastic sheeting on the ground, or is it sufficient to clean up on completion of the work?

Removal of ACM must be in accordance with Part 9 of the Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos 2nd Edition [NOHSC: 2002(2005)] (under OSH Regulation 5.45(2A) and 5.45(2B)). Part 9.4 of the Code requires preparation work to prevent contamination of surfaces. In some cases plastic sheeting may be the most suitable option, and in other cases (eg working over a concrete slab) cleaning of the surfaces after removal may be preferred. The method used to prevent surface contamination will depend on the nature of the job.  

OSH Regulation 5.49(3) requires that on completion of asbestos work, the workplace is left in a clean and safe condition.

OSH Regulation 5.52 requires that waste asbestos material is disposed of in accordance with Part 11 of the Code of Practice for the Management and Control of Asbestos in Workplaces [NOHSC: 2018(2005)].

  1. Can non-friable asbestos be left on-site during an asbestos removal job that takes a number of days?

Yes. OSH Regulation 5.49(3) provides that asbestos-containing material can be left on site provided it is left in a safe manner, such that asbestos dust will not be dispersed.

  1. If asbestos cement fragments result from the removal of asbestos cement panels from a building what is the expectation with respect to cleaning up the site? 

OSH Regulation 5.52 requires that waste asbestos material is disposed of in accordance with Part 11 of the Code of Practice for the Management and Control of Asbestos in Workplaces [NOHSC: 2018(2005)], part of which states that the work area should be visually clean at the end of the job.

There is a duty of care under the OSH Act 1984 for employers, self-employed people, and people with control of workplaces not to expose people at the workplace to hazards. As such, if duty holders know that, due to the work activities that have occurred, ACM fragments may be below the soil surface, they should take practicable steps to remove these. Depending on the work activities that have occurred, emu picking and raking the site (using wet methods and PPE) may be sufficient, however where contamination is deeper, more extensive remediation may be required.

The Department of Health guidelines on the Assessment, Remediation and Management of Asbestos-Contaminated Sites in Western Australia may be useful in such circumstances. The Department of Environment Regulation’s contaminated sites legislation may apply to some asbestos-contaminated sites.   From an enforcement perspective, it can be difficult to prove the source of debris unless the relevant work is witnessed, as debris may be historical, or may have been left by other persons.

  1. Under regulation 5.49 (3) of the OSH Regulations 1996, is vacuuming of hard surfaces on demolition sites required where asbestos cement fragments/debris are present following asbestos removal?

At the end of asbestos removal work, the site should be visually clear of ACM fragments/debris. Means to address this include the use of sheeting to contain fragments/debris, emu picking in conjunction with wet cleanup, or the use of an industrial vacuum with Class H filters. Asbestos vacuum cleaners should comply with the Class H requirements in Australian Standard AS/NZS 60335.2.69 Industrial vacuum cleaners or its equivalent.

Recycling of construction materials

  1. Removal of asbestos cement panels from timber framework usually results in asbestos debris attached to the timber around the fasteners.  What is considered an acceptable process of decontaminating the timber if it is to be recycled?

If the asbestos containing material cannot be removed from timber, the timber should be treated as asbestos waste material. WorkSafe does not always have jurisdiction over recycling building materials.

Asbestos removal licenses

  1. Does a restricted asbestos removal training course enable a person to competently identify asbestos containing materials and their condition?

No, this is not part of the course. The OSH legislation requires such identification to be done by a competent person, ie a person with suitable training and experience in this area.

  1. What is required to demonstrate that an applicant for a restricted asbestos removal licence has systems of work in place to ensure that asbestos work will be done in a safe and proper manner?

An applicant must complete a WorkSafe approved Restricted Asbestos Removal Licence training course with a Registered Training Organisation.  At the completion of the course, participants will be issued with a Statement of Completion, which must be forwarded to WorkSafe along with the application form and the application fee.

  1. Under OSH Regulation 5.45(2A), what training and experience is required by applicant’s nominated person to properly supervise and manage asbestos work?

The nominated person must complete a WorkSafe approved Restricted Asbestos Removal Licence training course with a Registered Training Organisation, and provide a statement of asbestos related work experience.   

  1. Under OSH Regulation 5.45(2B) of the OSH Regulations, does the person responsible for ensuring that asbestos work is done in accordance with Part 9 of the Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos 2nd Edition [NOHSC: 2002(2005)] have to be on-site at all times during the work?

No, however if not on site they would need to have a system in place to ensure the work was done to the required standard (for example, this could be a combination of providing the worker with training and relevant experience, providing the necessary equipment, providing periodic supervision and inspecting the finished work).

  1. What are the standard conditions of a restricted asbestos removal licence?

All removal of asbestos containing materials is carried out in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984, the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 and Part 9 of the Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos – 2nd Edition [NOHSC: 2002 (2005)].
A record of the training provided to each person who carries out asbestos removal work is kept for a minimum period of five (5) years and must be produced at the request of an Auditor.

A copy of the Safe Work Method Statement for each asbestos removal job is kept for a minimum period of five (5) years and must be produced at the request of an Auditor. 

A copy of the receipt issued by the waste disposal facility, to which asbestos material is transported for  disposal, is kept for a minimum period of five (5) years and must be produced at the request of an Auditor.
The holder of the Restricted Asbestos Licence is subject to auditing and must co-operate with officers of WorkSafe, including answering questions and allowing full access to all documents relating to the carrying out of asbestos removal work which includes, but is not limited to, the documents referred to in Conditions (2), (3), and (4).

Variations or additions to these conditions, as made by the WorkSafe Western Australia Commissioner, are complied with.

  1. Under OSH regulation 5.47, documents are to be available for inspection and produced on reasonable request.  Would the request have to be from a person authorised under the OSH Act?

In order for such a request to be legally enforceable, it would need to be from a person authorised under the OSH Act. However, a local government officer could ask whether the person would voluntarily produce the documents.

WorkSafe regulation/enforcement

  1. Under what circumstances should Local Governments report asbestos issues to WorkSafe (particularly with regard to bonded asbestos removal and demolition)?

Local governments may report dangerous situations at workplaces, or breaches of OSH legislation to WorkSafe. WorkSafe considers and prioritises all information received, in line with available resources, in determining what (if any) action will be taken.

  1. Are there any situations where WorkSafe would consider formal action based on evidence provided by local government officers?

WorkSafe would consider whether enforcement outcomes are possible on a case-by-case basis. The quality of evidence available and the seriousness of any breaches would be important considerations.

  1. Can a local government authority be delegated to administer the OSH legislation for asbestos?

No. The OSH Act does not provide for this.

  1. If a person conducting asbestos removal did not have required documents on site (eg Safe Work Method Statement, Asbestos Removal Code of Practice) what actions would a WorkSafe inspector take?

WorkSafe’s Compliance Policy explains the enforcement options available to an inspector. In the event of required documents not being on site, the inspector might, for example, issue a verbal direction (if it was possible for the documents to be brought to site during the inspection), issue an improvement notice (requiring the documents to be brought to site within a specified time) or if the inspector believed that activities were occurring that presented a serious and imminent risk, a prohibition notice (stopping the relevant activities) could be issued.

  1. If more than ten square metres of asbestos was being removed by a worker without an asbestos removalist licence, what actions would WorkSafe take?

An inspector would firstly confirm that the removal was not being done by a person engaged by a licenced asbestos removalist. Assuming this was not the case and the inspector formed an opinion there was a breach of the OSH legislation, the inspector would apply WorkSafe’s Compliance Policy.   The inspector might, for example, issue an improvement notice (requiring the required licence to be obtained within a specified time or a licence holder to be engaged), or if the inspector believed that activities were occurring that presented a serious and imminent risk, a prohibition notice (stopping the relevant activities) could be issued. In some cases, prosecution may be considered, where consistent with WorkSafe’s Prosecution Policy.

Further information

WorkSafe
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Last updated 27 Oct 2014

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