Asbestos Risk Assessments &
Hazardous Materials Risk Assessments

Asbestos: A Once Popular Material

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fibre that was historically mined and utilised by many industries across the globe. Its properties, such as flexibility, strength, affordability, and insulation from heat and electricity, made it a popular choice in construction and manufacturing.

Australia’s Asbestos Use

Australia had one of the highest rates of asbestos use per person in the world up until the mid-1980s. In 1983 Woodsreef mine closed which was the last asbestos mine in Australia. Additionally, from 1930 to 1983, Australia imported around 1.5 million tonnes of asbestos, which was used in a variety of applications, particularly in the construction of homes and buildings.

The Ban on Asbestos

By December 31, 2003, the understanding of the health risks posed by asbestos led to a complete ban on its use in Australia. This was a significant public health decision, reflecting the severe implications of asbestos exposure, which can cause life-threatening illnesses.

Types of Asbestos


The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) lists six types of asbestos mineral fibres, which include:

  • Chrysotile (white asbestos)
  • Amosite (brown or grey asbestos)
  • Crocidolite (blue asbestos)
  • Tremolite
  • Actinolite
  • Anthophylite

 

Asbestos-Containing Materials (ACMs)

ACMs are categorized into two types:

  • Non-friable asbestos: These are products that contain asbestos fibres mixed with other materials, such as cement. They are commonly found in buildings across Australia. If damaged, they can release asbestos fibres into the air.
  • Friable asbestos: These materials can be easily crumbled or reduced to powder and are more likely to become airborne. Examples include insulation materials.
Asbestos and hazardous materials risk assessments

Asbestos Sample Testing Form

Asbestos in Australian Homes

The ASEA estimates that approximately one-third of all homes in Australia contain asbestos products. Homes built before 1990 are particularly likely to contain asbestos-containing materials.

Common Locations for Asbestos in Homes Asbestos can be found in various parts of a home, including:

  • Roofing and gutters
  • Gables and eaves
  • Walls
  • Vinyl, carpet, and tile underlay
  • Lining behind wall tiles
  • Imitation brick cladding
  • Fencing
  • Sheds
  • Splashbacks in wet areas
  • Telecommunications pits
  • Some window putty
  • Expansion joints
  • Packing under beams
  • Concrete formwork

Resources

For further information, the ASEA provides additional resources:

Details about Asbestos sources

Asbestos Cement Sheets in Outbuildings

Outbuildings such as garages, workshops, or garden sheds often have walls and roofs made from asbestos cement sheets. These structures were commonly erected in the mid-20th century when asbestos materials were popular due to their durability and fire resistance.

Asbestos in Backyard Soil

In some cases, asbestos-contaminated soil can be found in backyards, particularly if the area has a history of asbestos waste disposal or if materials containing asbestos have deteriorated or been broken up and mixed with the soil.

Roofing and Gutters

Asbestos cement was commonly used in roofing and gutters in Australian homes built before the 1980s. These materials were favored for their durability and resistance to fire. Over time, weathering can cause these materials to deteriorate, releasing asbestos fibres into the air. It’s particularly risky during home renovations or demolitions when the material is disturbed.

Gables and Eaves

Gables and eaves may also contain asbestos cement materials. These areas are prone to wear and tear due to exposure to the elements, which can lead to the release of asbestos fibres during maintenance work. It’s important to inspect these areas regularly and to handle any repairs with caution.

Walls

Asbestos was used in the fibro sheeting of walls, particularly in post-war housing. The presence of asbestos in walls poses a significant risk during renovations, drilling, or cutting, as these activities can release asbestos fibres into the home environment.

Vinyl, Carpet, and Tile Underlay 

Asbestos-backed vinyl sheet flooring and the adhesives used to stick down tiles and carpets were common in homes. If these flooring materials are in good condition, they may not pose an immediate risk, but if they are disturbed or removed, they can release dangerous fibres.

Lining Behind Wall Tiles 

Asbestos was often used in the adhesive or backing of wall tiles. Renovations that involve removing tiles can disturb these asbestos-containing materials, necessitating professional assessment and removal.

Fencing

Asbestos fences were common in Australia. If these fences are left undisturbed and in good condition, they may not pose a significant health risk. However, if they are damaged or removed, they can release asbestos fibres.

Sheds

Many Australian sheds and outbuildings were constructed with asbestos-containing materials. As these structures age or are subjected to damage, they can become a source of asbestos fibre release.

Telecommunications Pits

Asbestos was used in some telecommunications pits and conduits. Workers need to be cautious when accessing these areas to avoid exposure to asbestos fibres.

Some Window Putty

Older window putty may contain asbestos. When windows are replaced or putty is removed, it can release asbestos fibres if not handled properly.

Concrete Formwork

Asbestos was sometimes used in concrete formwork as a molding agent. Cutting or breaking up old concrete formwork can release asbestos fibres.

Did you know…?

 

Testing and removal of asbestos from your investment property or your home, if it is also a place of business, could be tax deductible.

Common Asbestos Containing Materials in Houses

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Asbestos cement sheeting

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Asbestos cement sheeting

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Asbestos cement sheeting

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Asbestos cement sheeting

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Asbestos cement sheeting

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Asbestos cement sheeting

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Corrugated asbestos cement sheeting

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Corrugated asbestos cement sheeting

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Corrugated asbestos cement sheeting

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Fibrous cement pipe

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Fibrous cement pipe

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Laminated cement sheet

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Laminated cement sheet

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Vinyl coverings

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Vinyl coverings

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Vinyl coverings

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Vinyl coverings

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Zelemite electrical board/millboard

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Zelemite electrical board/millboard

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Mastic sealant

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Mastic sealant

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Mastic sealant

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Mastic sealant

More Information

 

The Australian Government Department of Health through the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee have developed a brochure with detailed information for householders and the general public. The brochure is comprehensive and easy to read.

Asbestos in Homes

SERVICES

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Asbestos Sample Testing

Identifibre is a National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) endorsed laboratory for analysis of bulk samples of building materials and soil samples for the presence of asbestos. With an experienced team of analysts, we offer a variety of turnaround times to suit budget and time restraints.

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Air Monitoring & Clearance Certificates

Identifibre provides all hygiene services required for asbestos removal works including air monitoring, visual inspections, clearance certificates and other services to ensure adequate control measures are in place before, during and after removal works.

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Asbestos & Hazardous Materials Management Plans

Identifibre can provide a complete asbestos management solution, incorporating the asbestos assessment and management plan framework adapted to your particular organisation structure.

Asbestos Sample Testing

Air Monitoring & Clearance Certificates

Asbestos & Hazardous Materials Management Plans

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Asbestos & Hazardous Materials Surveys & Risk Assessments

Identifibre’s Asbestos and Hazardous Materials Surveys and Risk Assessments (Division 6) detail the location and condition of asbestos and other hazardous materials that may be disturbed during demolition or refurbishment works on a building, structure, ship or plant where asbestos is fixed or installed.

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Asbestos in the Workplace Surveys & Risk Assessments

Identifibre can assist your workplace to comply with the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Regulations and the Australian Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations by carrying out a Division 5 Asbestos in the Workplace Survey and Risk Assessment in a timely, accurate and cost effective manner.

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Asbestos Awareness Training

Identifibre’s asbestos awareness training course provides guidance on identifying asbestos containing materials and how to work safely where asbestos may be suspected or confirmed.

Asbestos & Hazardous Materials Surveys & Risk Assessments

Asbestos in the Workplace Surveys & Risk Assessments

Asbestos Awareness Training

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Project Management & Supervision

Identifibre can provide management assistance in all phases of asbestos abatement activities, from preparation of specifications through to project completion, including supervision and final clearance certification.

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Asbestos Contaminated Land Assessments

Asbestos is commonly found within soil and fill material associated with commercial or residential construction. Contact Identifibre for expert advice to investigate and assess the site, including soil, and develop appropriate risk management strategies.

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Respiratory Protection Fit Testing

All personnel who are required to remove or disturb asbestos-containing materials must use adequate respiratory protection for the task. Identifibre offer respiratory mask fit tests with all Identifibre fit testers RESP-Fit accredited.

Project Management & Supervision

Asbestos Contaminated Land Assessments

Respiratory Protection Fit Testing

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