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Ban on chrysotile asbestos

From 31st December 2003, chrysotile asbestos (‘white’ asbestos) cannot be imported into Australia, or used or sold in any product. Actiolite, anthophyllite and tremolite (other forms of asbestos) were also banned from that date.

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. What is chrysotile?
  3. Where is chrysotile used?
  4. Why was chrysotile banned?
  5. When will the ban take effect?
  6. What about other forms of asbestos?
  7. What are the general requirements under occupational safety and health legislation for asbestos?
  8. What is covered by the Ban?
  9. Are there any uses of chrysotile that are not banned?
  10. So, what will the new occupational safety and health requirements for chrysotile asbestos mean or my business?
  11. Are safe substitutes for chrysotile available?
  12. What if I cannot find a safe replacement?
  13. Will the ban affect materials already in place?
  14. Will brake linings be available for the old vintage car market?
  15. Can materials containing chrysotile be reused?
  16. What about chrysotile contaminants in the mining industry?

1. Introduction

Chrysotile was the only form of asbestos still used commercially in Western Australia. In the past, the other common forms of asbestos used in Western Australia have been amosite (‘brown’) and crocidolite (‘blue’). The use of blue and brown asbestos is severely restricted by legislation in this State. All three forms of asbestos are however, present in materials such as asbestos cement sheeting and insulation that are already in place. Information on the Ban is provided in this Bulletin, and we have also provided answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

2. What is chrysotile?

Chrysotile is a mineral and belongs to the asbestos family. The asbestos family is generally seen as having two major subdivisions – the amphibole group which includes blue (crocidolite) and brown (amosite) asbestos, and the serpentine group which includes chrysotile or ‘white’ asbestos.

3. Where is chrysotile used?

Chrysotile asbestos is found in a number of products or uses including in:

  • friction materials eg: brake pads and clutch linings;
  • thermal and acoustic insulation;
  • asbestos cement sheeting and meter boards;
  • compressed asbestos gaskets; and
  • high stress seals and as a filler in adhesives.

4. Why was chrysotile banned?

Chrysotile asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral that is a known carcinogen (causes cancer). As with other forms of asbestos, exposure to chrysotile can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Australia has decided that the threat to the health of workers from exposure to chrysotile is not acceptable and is therefore introducing a ban on its import and use.

5. When did the ban take effect?

The ban took effect from 31st December 2003.

6. What about other forms of asbestos?

The blue and brown forms of asbestos are already severely restricted in Western Australia almost to the point of elimination. Including other forms of asbestos in the ban will not affect your workplace to any great extent. As well as chrysotile, Australia has include all other forms of asbestos in the ban. There are the fibrous forms of actinolite, tremolite and anthophyllite.

7. What are the general requirements under occupational safety and health legislation for asbestos?


Your business must comply with all the requirements for asbestos under the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations, and this continues to be the case after the ban is introduced.

Workplaces in this State have historically only used two other types of asbestos, blue (crocidolite) and brown (amosite). The use of blue and brown asbestos is already severely restricted by the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996. You cannot use blue or brown asbestos in your workplace except for:

  • removal and disposal purposes;
  • circumstances where they occur naturally and are not used for any new application;
  • and certain research activities.

A substance that contains asbestos must not be sprayed or installed as insulation under Schedule 5.2 of the Regulations.

Your business must comply with the strict requirements for asbestos hazards at workplaces and for asbestos removal work set out in Part 5, Division 4 of the Regulations.

In addition, the general duty of care requirements under the Occupational Safety and Health Act apply to any work involving the use, storage or handling of asbestos. Section 19 of Act includes a requirement for employers to provide and maintain workplaces, plant and systems of work such that, as far as practicable, his employees are not exposed to hazards – in this case the hazard being asbestos.

8. What is covered by the Ban?

The ban is on the importation and use of chrysotile asbestos. A national customs prohibition stops all importation of chrysotile asbestos (raw or in products) and occupational safety and health legislation in the States and Territories bans all uses of chrysotile in Australian workplaces. All uses of chrysotile asbestos are banned except for the following:

chrysotile asbestos is still be allowed for:

  • bona fide research or analysis;
  • when handled for removal or disposal purposes;
  • where it is encountered during non-asbestos mining or quarrying; or
  • where there is a specified exemption (see below for more information on specified exemptions).

Also, the ban does not apply to chrysotile products “in situ” – that means that if you have chrysotile products already in place in your business by 31st December 2003 they can stay in place until they are due for replacement. At that point you must replace them with non-chrysotile alternatives.

9. Are there any uses of chrysotile that are not banned?

The following is a brief explanation of uses of chrysotile that are not covered by the ban.

  • Bona fide research - under the Occupational Safety and Heath Regulations and for the purposes of this ban, “research” includes the display of chrysotile containing items in historical and museum displays. This will mean that all the activities required for displays eg: preparation, handling, maintenance and conservation work, dismantling and public viewing, will not be covered by the ban on use of chrysotile products.
  • Analysis includes laboratory testing of samples of asbestos fibres.
  • Removal or disposal of chrysotile includes replacement of chrysotile “in situ” (in place) with a non-chrysotile product. For example, during the re-manufacture of brake shoes, disposal of the chrysotile linings and re-manufacture of the shoe with non-chrysotile linings constitutes “removal and disposal”.
  • “In situ” means that all raw materials or products already in place by 31st December 2003 can stay in place until they need to be replaced. In these situations the chrysotile asbestos does not constitute a significant risk to the safety and health of users until the chrysotile component is replaced or disturbed.

Examples include:

  • linings in the brake shoes of in-service motor vehicles;
  • existence of asbestos deposits in the ground;
  • presence of asbestos components in electrical meter boards; and
  • receptacles used for the storage of acetylene gas under pressure.

Specified exemptions - The States and Territories have agreed on a strictly limited and time limited list of exemptions from the ban. There may be some situations where it is not technically possible to substitute an alternative to chrysotile by 31st December 2003. Also, there may be some situations where the risk to the safety and health of users from an alternative product is greater than the risk from the chrysotile product.

10. So, what will the new occupational safety and health requirements for chrysotile asbestos mean for my business?

On 31st December 2003, Western Australia amended the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations so that under Schedule 5.4 your business can only use chrysotile asbestos for bona fide research and for:

  • removal and disposal purposes and;
  • situations where chrysotile occurs naturally and is not used for any new application eg: in many mining operations.

Amosite (brown asbestos) and crocidolite (blue asbestos) are already subject to the same prohibition in Western Australia.

In addition, for chrysotile asbestos there is a list of nationally agreed and time limited exemptions.

Your business still has to comply with the requirements set out for asbestos under Part 5, Division 4 of the Regulations and meet your general duty of care requirements under the Act, including the requirement that employers provide safe workplaces, plant and systems of work.

11. Are safe substitutes for chrysotile available?

Safer substitutes have been developed for almost all uses of chrysotile. There may however, be some risk associated with some substitutes and reasonable precautions should be taken to avoid exposure. For example, non-asbestos substitutes have been developed for brake and clutch linings. Mechanics and repairers should avoid exposure to dust from these substitutes.

12. What if I cannot find a safe replacement?

The States and Territories have agreed on a strictly controlled list of time-limited exemptions from the ban. There may be some situations where it is not technically possible to substitute an alternative to chrysotile by 31st December 2003. Also, there may be some situations where the risk to the safety and health of users from an alternative product is greater than the risk from the chrysotile product.

13. Will the ban affect materials already in place?

The ban does not apply to chrysotile products “in situ” – that means that if you have chrysotile products already in place in your business by 31st December 2003 they can stay in place until they are due for replacement. At that point you must replace them with non-chrysotile alternatives.

14. Will brake linings be available for the old vintage car market?

There will be no exemptions for vintage cars. Asbestos brake linings are therefore not available after December 2003.

15. Can materials containing chrysotile be reused?

No. Chrysotile products must be removed and disposed of when they come up for replacement.

16. What about chrysotile contaminants in the mining industry?

The ban does not apply to situations where chrysotile occurs naturally, such as in many mining operations, and where it is not used for any new application. In this case the Mines Safety and Inspection Regulations 1995 set out requirements for the mine manager to follow for the control of contaminant asbestos (see Regulation 9.33).

Under Regulation 9.11 of the Mines Safety and Inspection Regulations atmospheric contaminants must be maintained at levels below the exposure standard for a particular contaminant and as low as practicable. The exposure standards are set out in the National Exposure Standards [NOHSC: 1003 (1995)].

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