Asbestos

What safety precautions do I need to take?

A guide for householders and the general public

Page last updated: 06 March 2013

If you are carrying out maintenance such as painting or sealing on asbestos cement surfaces without sanding, wire brushing or scraping (i.e. you are not releasing any asbestos fibres into the air), you only need to take the usual precautions for these activities (such as working in a ventilated area).

However, if you plan to disturb materials in your home that might contain asbestos (such as by sanding, cutting or drilling), it is important to take the proper precautions for handling asbestos to avoid risking your health or the health of your family.

You should refer to your state’s or territory’s entries under ‘Further information and advice
on asbestos’ at the end of this booklet.

The most important points to remember when handling asbestos products are also described below (see ‘Key “dos and don’ts” for handling asbestos materials’).


CASE STUDY

PETER’S BATHROOM

Peter was planning to renovate the bathroom of his 1950s house.

His friend, who is a builder, tells him that there might be asbestos cement sheeting in the walls and that he should get advice about asbestos removal.

Peter thinks that sounds expensive and he wants to do the renovation himself. He starts the renovation, which involves some structural rearrangement of the walls and removal of all the existing cladding, which he piles in a skip in his driveway.

Margaret, who lives next door to Peter, sees the rubbish in the driveway and hears the noise of the renovation. She has read about asbestos and is concerned that asbestos dust might be blowing over to her house. She is particularly worried about her four children, aged from 2 to 10 years. She keeps the children indoors and phones her local government environmental health officer (EHO), who comes straight out to inspect the work next door.

The EHO tells Peter to stop work immediately. After some questions to Peter, the EHO concludes that the house is old enough to contain asbestos cement sheeting and explains that unless Peter can show that the sheeting is not asbestos (by having it tested), he must treat it as asbestos-containing material. The EHO’s assessment of the site also shows that the total amount of sheeting that Peter needs to remove is less than 10 square metres. This means that Peter is allowed to continue work but is given a formal notice that he must take all reasonable precautions to remove and dispose of the material safely (according to the requirements of his local authority), including double-bagging, labelling of all the materials, measures to reduce dust and airborne fibres and disposal at a designated asbestos waste disposal site. The EHO also advises Peter about wearing personal protective equipment (respirator, gloves and overalls) while he is doing the work.a

The EHO also reassures Margaret and explains the procedures that Peter will now be using. He tells her to contact him again if she has any further concerns.

aFor further information on personal protective equipment, and handling, packaging
and disposal of asbestos waste see "Key DOS and DONT'S".