Asbestos was widely used as a building material until banned in the 1990s. If you are undertaking work on an older home or commercial property it may contain asbestos materials.
There are two types of asbestos:
- friable (non-bonded) asbestos products contains loosely packed asbestos fibres. These materials are potentially dangerous because asbestos fibres can be easily released into the air.
- non-friable (bonded) asbestos products are usually bonded with cement or a similar material. The asbestos fibres are tightly bound in the product and are not normally released into the air unless they are disturbed, damaged or badly weathered. If these products remain in good condition and are left undisturbed they present no known health risks.
A licence is required to remove more than 10m2 of non-friable asbestos-containing material.
There are two licence classes
- Class A licence holders can remove all asbestos-containing materials, including friable asbestos materials
- Class B licence holders can remove any amount of non-friable asbestos.
Visit asbestos.sa.gov.au for comprehensive information on asbestos and asbestos removal.
Asbestos in homes and workplaces
Asbestos.sa.gov.au provides full details on identifying, managing and disposing of asbestos. The website gives details on licencing requirements and how to protect yourself, co-workers and members of the public from asbestos during the removal process.
When dealing with asbestos you must also refer to the Codes of Practices:
The person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU) who commissions the licensed asbestos removal work at a workplace is responsible for arranging the air monitoring at that workplace. If the workplace is a residential premises, the licensed asbestos removalist carrying out the removal work is responsible for arranging the air monitoring.
An independent licensed asbestos assessor for asbestos removal must conduct air monitoring (for both Class A and Class B licences). The air monitoring assessment must take place immediately before and during licensed asbestos removal work.
In a workplace, the PCBU must distribute the results of the air monitoring to:
- health and safety representatives
- any other person at the workplace.
Addendum to the How to Safely Remove Asbestos Code of Practice in relation to air monitoring
In South Australia, air monitoring is required for the removal of both friable and non-friable asbestos.
Page 26 of the How to Safely Remove Asbestos Code of Practice states that air monitoring is not required when removing more than 10sq m of non‑friable asbestos. This is not the case in South Australia. Air monitoring is required when removing friable asbestos and designated quantities of non-friable asbestos.
The Code further states on page 27 that air monitoring may be carried out before and during Class B asbestos removal work. In South Australia, air monitoring is a mandatory requirement for both Class A and Class B asbestos removal work.
Also on page 27 the Code states a PCBU that commissions asbestos removal work at a workplace is only required to ensure air monitoring is undertaken for Class A licensed removals and to communicate the air monitoring results (as stated on page 28). In South Australia, PCBUs commissioning asbestos removal work at workplaces must ensure air monitoring is undertaken and the results communicated for both Class A and Class B licensed removals.
In summary, in South Australia:
- air monitoring is required for the removal of both friable and non-friable asbestos
- air monitoring is a mandatory requirement for both Class A and Class B asbestos removal work
- PCBUs commissioning asbestos removal work at workplaces must ensure air monitoring is undertaken and the results communicated for both Class A and Class B licensed removals.
According to the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA), asbestos kills more than 4,000 Australians each year from asbestos-related disease.
SafeWork SA regularly undertake compliance campaigns targeting the asbestos removal industry to ensure both workers and the public remain safe. We enforce compliance including prohibition and improvement notices, licence suspension, expiations and prosecution. Our 2020 snapshot into asbestos compliance highlights that some PCBUs are still putting the lives of their workers and the public at risk.
Asbestos regulations have been in place for more than 25 years so there is no excuses for non-compliance.