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' (also known as bonded). 

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, low density fibre board (LDFB), paper backing to vinyl sheeting, internal cores to fire doors, felt and woven asbestos textiles and matting.  

Non-friable asbestos means any asbestos-containing material (ACM) other than friable asbestos. Examples of non-friable asbestos include, but are not limited to, asbestos cement building products e.g. roof and fence sheeting, vinyl floor tiles, friction materials, and any product where the asbestos is ‘bound’ in a matrix.

Managing and working with asbestos requires strict controls, in accordance with the codes of practice on How to manage and control asbestos in the workplace and How to safely remove asbestos.

The Work Health and Safety (General) Regulations 2022 provide that:

  • people must not be exposed to asbestos dust
  • asbestos at workplaces must be identified and labelled and the risks assessed by a competent person
  • a register and management plan detailing the type, location and condition of the asbestos must be available at the workplace and reviewed regularly
  • a licence (Class A type) is required for removal of any amount of friable asbestos containing material at a workplace
  • a licence (either Class A or B type) is required for removal of more than 10m2 of non-friable asbestos containing material at a workplace
  • asbestos work areas must be left free of visible asbestos residue after removal work
  • a clearance certificate is required following all licensed asbestos removal work at a workplace, issued by an independent competent person prior to re-occupation of removal area;
  • Worksafe must be notified of all licensed asbestos removal work at least 5 days prior to commencement
  • waste asbestos must be correctly labelled, transported and disposed of at a licensed disposal facility
  • records must be kept, and WorkSafe notified, if a person has been exposed to asbestos at a workplace
  • where there is a risk to health from asbestos exposure, health surveillance must be provided via a Registered Medical Practitioner.

The Department maintain a list of all licensed asbestos removalists (individuals and companies) and Licensed Asbestos Assessors (LAA), accessible via the Licence and Registration Search. This can be used to confirm the validity and status of any licence number quoted and should be referenced before a removalist or licensed assessor is engaged.

The Australian Asbestos Network website is a useful resource for information about asbestos in Australia, put together by a team of media researchers from Murdoch and Monash universities working with medical and public health researchers. On this site you can find information on asbestos-related diseases, health information for work and home and 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.  

Another useful resource of information and asbestos related statistics is the Asbestos and Silica Safety and Eradication Agency (ASSEA), 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. ASSEA also provides an Asbestos Exposure Register, where people who may have been exposed to asbestos can register the details of their exposure. ASSEA has also published guidance for importers and exporters.

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

Further information


Asbestos and Silica Safety and Eradication Agency (ASSEA)

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