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. Therefore 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.
Chapter 8 of the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA) (the WHS Regulations) outlines the specific requirements relating to the management and control of asbestos at workplaces including:
- 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 Code of Practice - How to manage and control asbestos in the workplace.
Managing the risks associated with exposure to asbestos and asbestos-containing materials involves the following risk management approach:
- Identify asbestos at the workplace, label it and record it in an asbestos register.
- Assess the risk of exposure to airborne asbestos.
- Eliminate or minimise the risks by implementing control measures.
- Review control measures to ensure they are effective.
Refer to the Asbestos safety checklist and the Code of Practice - How to manage and control asbestos in the workplace for detailed information on managing the risks in your workplace.
Identifying asbestos at a workplace
You must engage a competent person to identify asbestos in the workplace.
You will not need to engage a competent person to assess the building structure if you assume that asbestos is present and take the appropriate precautions.
Where asbestos has been identified or is likely to be identified (or where the building was constructed prior to 31 December 2003), you must prepare an asbestos register and keep it at the workplace.
You must also prepare a written asbestos management plan that sets out how you will manage any identified asbestos or ACM.
You must properly maintain the asbestos register to ensure the information in the register is up-to-date.
Assessing the risk of exposure
If asbestos is in good condition and left undisturbed, it is unlikely that airborne asbestos fibres will be released into the air and the risk to health is low. Therefore, it is usually safe to leave it labelled and undisturbed, and review its condition over time.
However, if the asbestos has deteriorated, has been disturbed, or if asbestos-contaminated dust is present, the likelihood that exposure may occur is increased.
There are a number of measures used to control the risk to workers and others associated with asbestos removal, including:
- limiting access, displaying signs and installing barricades
- decontamination procedures
- respiratory protective equipment (RPE)
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- air monitoring.
When choosing the most appropriate control measure, the following hierarchy of controls must be considered:
- eliminate the risk (eg remove the asbestos)
- substitute the risk, isolate the risk or apply engineering controls (eg enclose, encapsulate, seal)
- use administrative controls (eg safe work practices, labelling)
- use PPE.
A combination of these controls may be required in order to adequately manage and control asbestos.
You must clearly indicate (eg using labels or, where appropriate, warning signs) all identified or assumed asbestos, including where the asbestos is inaccessible.
Reviewing control measures
You must regularly review all implemented control measures and, if necessary, revised to make sure they work as planned and to maintain a safe work environment.
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 asbestos removalist 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.
If the asbestos has deteriorated, been disturbed or if asbestos dust is present, the likelihood that airborne asbestos fibres will be released into the air is increased. If there is a risk of exposure to airborne asbestos fibres, you must control the risk (eg by removing the asbestos). In circumstances where asbestos is removed, you need to revise your asbestos register.
By law, asbestos waste must be taken to a licensed transfer stations or waste depots. It is recommended that you contact your local transfer station or waste depot for advice. Waste transporters can be located under 'Asbestos removal and/or treatment' in the Yellow Pages.
Less than 10m2
An employer, a self-employed person or a person who manages or controls a workplace (eg a commercial property owner) can conduct a limited amount of asbestos removal work without a licence if:
- the asbestos-containing material is non-friable and
- the area of asbestos-containing material to be removed does not exceed 10m2 in total.
Although unlicensed removal of asbestos is permitted in these circumstances, it is generally not recommended as it may be safer for a licensed asbestos removalist to perform the removal work.
Further information on the requirements for training, signage, personal protective equipment, decontamination processes, packaging of asbestos waste and disposal requirements can be found in the Code of Practice – How to safely remove asbestos.
More than 10m2
You must engage an appropriately licensed asbestos removalist to remove more than 10m2 of non-friable asbestos from a workplace. An independent licensed asbestos assessor must also be engaged to undertake air monitoring of the removal area for both Class A and Class B removal work.
If a workplace needs friable asbestos removed then this must be performed by a Class A licensed asbestos removalist. The person with management or control of the workplace (which could be a commercial property owner) needs to arrange this removal.
If the friable asbestos material has been introduced to the workplace in a piece of plant or equipment then whoever has management or control over that plant or equipment is responsible for arranging the removal by a licensed asbestos removalist.
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).
Asbestos register and survey
Where asbestos has been identified or is likely to be identified (or where the building was constructed prior to 31 December 2003) an asbestos register must be prepared and kept at the workplace. The asbestos register lists all identified (or assumed) asbestos in a workplace and must be maintained to ensure the information in the register is up-to-date.
The register is used to notify workers (particularly those involved in building construction, refurbishment and repairs) of the presence of asbestos. When planning demolition or refurbishment work at a workplace the asbestos register must be reviewed (and revised if necessary) and provided to workers before they commence any building works.
The register must also be provided to any licensed asbestos removalist before commencing removal work.
Refer to pages 47-48 of the Code of Practice - How to manage and control asbestos in the workplace for a template and example of an asbestos register.
Asbestos management plan
An asbestos management plan must be prepared for a workplace where asbestos has been identified or assumed present, or is likely to be present.
The plan must be maintained to ensure the information is up-to-date (at least every five years), and must be kept in an accessible location at the workplace.
Refer to the Code of Practice - How to manage and control asbestos in the workplace for more information on asbestos management plans.
When a register and management plan are not required
An asbestos register and a written asbestos management plan are not required if:
- the workplace is a building that was constructed after 31 December 2003 and
- no asbestos has been identified and
- no asbestos is likely to be present.
An asbestos refurbishment/demolition survey is required where the premises, or part of it, need upgrading, refurbishment or demolition.
The survey must locate and identify all asbestos-containing materials before any structural work begins. The survey will involve a destructive inspection and asbestos disturbance. To ensure safety, the area surveyed must be vacated and cannot be reoccupied until the area is certified as being safe.
The survey does not need to record the condition of any asbestos-containing materials. The survey should also include other hazardous substances (such as lead, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), synthetic mineral fibres).
When undertaking a refurbishment/demolition survey, provide the surveyor with the site layout, building plans, building specifications and any history of asbestos work.
A refurbishment/demolition survey safety checklist is available to help you to step through an asbestos survey.
Asbestos removal control plan
An asbestos removal control plan is similar to a job safety analysis and helps ensure that asbestos removal is well planned and carried out in a safe manner. The control plan focuses on the specific control measures necessary to minimise any risk from exposure to asbestos.
A plan is only required for licensed asbestos removal work and must be prepared before any removal work commences. If you engage a licensed asbestos removalist, ensure they provide you with a copy of the plan.
Refer to the Code of Practice - How to safely remove asbestos for further information and an example of an asbestos removal plan.