Asbestos was used widely in the construction industry during the 1950s, '60s and '70s. In the mid 1970s the public was alerted to the dangers of asbestos and it was gradually phased out and replaced by alternative products. In 2003 it was banned entirely and can no longer be used, recycled or imported.
Safe Work NSW provides a free hotline to provide advice and guidance on asbestos-related issues, 1800 Asbestos (1800 272 378).
Every home built or renovated in Australia before the mid 1980s is likely to contain asbestos. If left undisturbed asbestos generally does not pose a health risk however with home renovations, particularly DYI, the home renovator needs to be aware of the dangers of asbestos, where it may be found in the home and how best to manage it.
When disturbed during renovations and home maintenance, fibres can be released into the air. When asbestos fibres are inhaled they can cause life threatening disease including lung cancer, pleural disease, asbestosis and mesothelioma (an incurable and terminal cancer).
Who can remove asbestos material?
The removal of any friable asbestos must only be removed by a person who holds a Class A asbestos removal licence.
Non friable asbestos
The removal of more than 10 square metres of non-friable asbestos material must only be undertaken by a person who holds a Class B asbestos removal licence.
A person may remove less than 10 square metres of bonded asbestos without a licence however the removal and disposal of the asbestos must be carried out in accordance with the Workcover guidelines Working with Asbestos.
Be aware that if a person (including the owner or occupier) engages another person or business to undertake the removal of any friable asbestos material or more than 10 square metres of non-friable asbestos material, under the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 they have a duty to ensure that the work is carried out by an appropriately licensed asbestos removalist. There are penalties for non compliance with these requirements.
Disposing of asbestos
SITA Australia's New Illawarra Road Landfill at Lucas Heights will receive asbestos waste under certain conditions. Check out the guidelines for the transport and disposal of asbestos material to the facility.
Council is the responsible for investigating non work site related asbestos pollution incidents.
Report an asbestos issue to us
WorkCover NSW is the regulatory authority that deals with asbestos incidents involving work sites. Complaints relating to contractor handling asbestos in an unsafe manner can be reported to Safe Work NSW on 13 10 50.
Any complaints received by the council regarding the inappropriate handling of asbestos will be investigated and referred to WorkCover inspectors where incidents fall under their jurisdiction.