Work health and safety laws regulate asbestos in the workplace.

A workplace is any place where a worker goes, or is likely to be, while at work. This includes parts of residential premises while work is being undertaken at the premises.

Identifying management or control

Dealing with asbestos in the workplace is the responsibility of the person with all or part of the management or control of that workplace.

A person with management or control of a workplace means:

  • “a person conducting a business or undertaking to the extent that the business or undertaking involves the management or control, in whole or in part, of the workplace”.

To determine who has management or control of a workplace (or plant within a workplace), it is necessary to consider matters such as ownership and who can make changes to the workplace or plant.

This typically includes persons such as:

  • PCBUs who own and have management and control over a commercial building or structure, including associated plant that forms part of the building or structure (such as lifts, air conditioners and boilers). This can include owners who may or may not occupy the workplace.
  • PCBUs who occupy a building or structure, and who have been granted approval to undertake structural changes via a lease agreement or similar. In this case, the extent to which a PCBU has management or control over the workplace may vary.
  • A PCBU who has been delegated the responsibility of management and control of a workplace, such as commercial property managers and agents.

While a PCBU can delegate the management and control of a workplace to another PCBU, such as a commercial property manager or agent, they cannot delegate their work health and safety duties. In other words, the owner of a commercial property may ultimately be in contravention of the Work Health and Safety legislation in the event that its manager or agent contravenes that duty.

All employers should understand the extent of their management or control over the workplace. If you have the power to make changes to, or decisions about, the structure and use of the workplace, then you have management or control.

Specific requirements relating to the management and control of asbestos at a workplace include:

  • demolition and refurbishment requirements
  • licence and notification requirements for removing asbestos
  • air monitoring and clearance inspection requirements
  • health monitoring duties
  • training requirements.

Employers with management or control should be aware of their responsibilities in regards to asbestos management and ensure they comply with all requirements. Detailed information is available in the:

Employers who own their premises

Anyone who has management or control over a premises has legal responsibilities related to asbestos. If you own a premises but engage a building manager or caretaker you still have legal duties to manage and remove asbestos.

If you own the premises you have a duty to:

  • identify asbestos in your workplace (including inaccessible areas, plant and machinery) so far as is reasonably practicable
  • document all asbestos and suspected asbestos in an asbestos register
  • develop a written asbestos management plan
  • ensure the documents are readily accessible.

See the Code of Practice - How to manage and control asbestos in the workplace for specific details including guidance on developing an asbestos register and management plan.

If you do not have the relevant training required to identify asbestos you should engage a competent person to so. See our removing asbestos page for further details.

There are a number of other steps you can take to help manage and control asbestos in your workplace including:

  • controlling the risk through regular inspections
  • notifying anyone contracted to work at the workplace of the presence of asbestos
  • consulting with employees
  • training and educating employees on the control solutions.

If asbestos-containing materials or products are located in your workplace it is best to leave them alone unless they are damaged or likely to be exposed and damaged. If the asbestos is not removed:

  • add the items to the asbestos register
  • create an asbestos management plan
  • ensure the presence and location of the asbestos is clearly labelled.

Employers who do not own their premises

If you are an employer who does not own the premises in which you operate your business (you lease or rent your premises) then you are unlikely to have management or control of the workplace. You should check your leasing agreement to establish to what extent you may have management or control.

If you do not have management or control over the premises, you will need to speak to the property owner before any asbestos removal work is undertaken.

If your business owns any vehicles, plant or machinery that might include asbestos you will have a duty over these items and the workers that operate them.

Commercial property owners

Commercial property owners who lease or rent their building to another business are legally responsible for the management of any asbestos within that building (assuming you retain management or control over that property).