November is Asbestos Awareness Month
Australia has one of the highest rates of asbestos-related diseases in the world. Learn about the dangers of asbestos and how to manage it.Be informed
Asbestos and its risks
Asbestos products are still found in many buildings and are not dangerous if kept in good condition. However, if an asbestos product is broken or disturbed in any way, it is very hazardous. The material can cause fatal diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
If your property contains asbestos-based materials they must be removed by a licensed professional before any other work begins.
Asbestos materials are either bonded (tightly bound) or friable (loosely bound). Bonded asbestos materials are commonly found in houses and often known as ‘fibro’, ‘asbestos cement’ and ‘AC sheeting’. Friable asbestos was mostly used in commercial and industrial settings for fire-proofing, sound-proofing and insulation.
You cannot tell if a material contains asbestos by simply looking at it, so treat doubtful material as if it does contain the mineral. Asbestos can be found in:
- corrugated roofing
- wall cladding
- thermal insulation
- electricity and gas meter boxes
- vinyl and linoleum flooring
- asbestos-insulated wiring
- old domestic heaters
- hot-water systems
- fibro sheet fencing.
The following products may contain asbestos:
- Fibrolite (1972–1982)
- Durock (up to 1974)
- Coverline or Highline profiled sheets (1972–1982)
- Hardiflex or Hardiplank (1982)
- new Hardiflex (1982–present)
- decorative coatings
Harditherm and Duratherm do not contain asbestos.
Getting rid of asbestos
If you suspect you have asbestos in your building, get it checked by a qualified professional.
If you are removing more than 10 square metres of bonded asbestos material, you must by law hire a Class B Workcover-licensed removalist. However, the City of Sydney recommends hiring a licensed removalist, regardless of the amount of asbestos in your building. This will help prevent any health risks caused from improperly handling asbestos.
A Class A Workcover-licensed removalist must be contracted when removing any friable asbestos.
The Workcover NSW website will help you find the right professional. It is also where you can apply for the necessary approval for the demolition and removal of asbestos. A ‘Class B’ asbestos licensed operator can remove bonded asbestos.
Asbestos waste must be taken to a certified waste facility. The maximum penalties for owners and transporters breaking the rules are $1 million for corporations and $250,000 for an individual.
Our environmental health specialists with the Health and Building Unit investigate complaints related to asbestos dumps on private land and City property. You can report any concerns about dumped asbestos to us on 02 9265 9333. This phone service is available 24 hours, 7 days per week.
We have compiled a fact sheet (download below) for more detailed information about asbestos.
You can also visit the sites below for further information on the dangers associated with asbestos and safety guidance.
Safe Work AustraliaWorkcover Authority of NSW Federal Department of Health: Asbestos – a guide for householders and the general publicAsbestos Awareness Council: 20 point safety checkAsbestos Awareness Council: Asbestos building materials databaseAsbestos Awareness Council: Video – asbestos in your home
|Fact sheet: asbestos||Word 141.0 KB||Download|
|Managing asbestos guidelines||PDF 767.0 KB||Download|
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|Managing asbestos policy||PDF 509.1 KB||Download|
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Last updated: Friday, 4 December 2015