Asbestos - Information on asbestos in the workplace

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Inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Asbestos is a serious issue for Australia and will continue to be so for many years, despite the ban on new uses of asbestos in 2003.

Asbestos can be classified into two main types, 'friable' or 'non-friable'. 

Friable asbestos means any material that contains asbestos and is in the form of a powder or can be easily crumbled or reduced to a powder by hand pressure when dry. Examples of friable asbestos include, but are not limited to, asbestos lagging, sprayed insulation, millboard, felt and woven asbestos matting.  

Non-friable asbestos means any asbestos-containing material other than friable asbestos. Examples of non-friable asbestos include, but are not limited to, asbestos cement building products, vinyl floor tiles, friction materials, and any product where the asbestos is locked into the matrix.

Working with asbestos requires strict controls, in accordance with the Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos 2nd Edition [NOHSC: 2002(2005)] and the Code of Practice for the Management and Control of Asbestos in Workplaces [NOHSC:2018(2005)]

The Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 provide that:

  • Asbestos at workplaces must be identified and the risks assessed;
  • A licence is required for removal of friable asbestos containing material or for removal of more than 10m2 of non-friable asbestos containing material;
  • People must not be exposed to asbestos dust;
  • Asbestos work areas must be left in a clean state;
  • Waste asbestos must be correctly disposed of; 
  • Records must be kept, and WorkSafe notified, if a person has been exposed to asbestos at a workplace; and
  • Where there is a risk to health from asbestos exposure, health surveillance must be provided.

The Australian Asbestos Network website is a one-stop-shop for information about asbestos in Australia.  It has been put together by a team of media researchers from Murdoch and Monash universities working with Australia’s top medical and public health researchers.  On this site you can find  information on asbestos-related diseases, health information for work and home, and also learn about the history of asbestos in Australia through the voices of the people who have shared their personal stories of the mills, mine sites, factories, and everyday living with asbestos.  

The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) is a Commonwealth Government agency, established in 2013 to coordinate and encourage work towards a national strategic plan, aiming to eliminate asbestos related disease in Australia. ASEA also provides an Asbestos Exposure Register, where people who may have been exposed to asbestos can register the details of their exposure. ASEA has also published guidance for importers and exporters.

A national publication on asbestos, providing information on risk and safe handling, is Asbestos – a guide for householders and the general public. 

Regulation of asbestos issues crosses several government departments. Check this link to work out which agency can best assist with your enquiry. 

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