One third of all buildings in Australia contain asbestos products. As a builder or tradesperson, you are likely to come across asbestos when undertaking renovation work on commercial and domestic sites.
While commercial properties should have an asbestos register for you to sight before commencing any work, domestic property owners (or tenants) may not be aware that there is asbestos present.
If you do not hold an asbestos removal licence, there are restrictions on the type and amount of asbestos a builder or tradie may remove.
As a self-employed builder or tradesperson, you have a general duty to control exposure to airborne asbestos fibres by either eliminating the risk or reducing the risk so far as is reasonably practicable.
While a domestic property may become a workplace when you are undertaking work, the duties which relate to asbestos in workplaces (including the duty to identify asbestos) is not owed by the homeowner or persons leasing the premises. This general duty will be held by you.
If you are likely to disturb asbestos in order to complete work in a commercial property, then the person with management or control of the workplace must provide you with a copy of their asbestos register. An asbestos register will identify where asbestos is located on the premises.
The duties of a person with management or control in relation to managing asbestos may also apply to you. While at a workplace, you have a duty to identify asbestos (including inaccessible areas) so far as is reasonably practicable. In doing so, you should, for example, identify when the building was constructed and what materials were used in its construction. The scope of your work should help determine the extent of your management or control.
You may choose to use a competent person to identify asbestos. Anyone engaged to inspect asbestos, determining risk, or recommending control measures must be competent to do so.
If there is uncertainty (based on reasonable grounds) as to whether any material is likely to contain asbestos, then you either:
- assume asbestos is present or
- arrange for analysis of a sample to be undertaken.
Samples should be taken in a controlled manner that does not create a risk to you and anyone who will work or visit the area where the sample was taken.