Many vehicles produced before 2003 are likely to have asbestos-containing components that remain in the vehicle until replacement is required. Motor vehicle repair and maintenance work may therefore involve the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres from asbestos-containing components such as brake pads/shoes, gaskets and clutch plates.

Prohibitions on the use of asbestos-containing products came into effect across Australia on 31 December 2003, and replacement brake pads, brake shoes and clutch plates fitted to vehicles after this date must be asbestos free.

Importing motor vehicle parts

Please read the statement from the Australian Border Force regarding the importation of motor vehicle parts into Australia.

For further information see Managing the risk of asbestos when importing a motor vehicle available on the Australian Border Force website.

Identifying and controlling risks

If you are an employer, a self-employed person or a hobby mechanic and you work on older vehicles, you need to take precautions to protect yourself (and your workers/family) from airborne asbestos fibres.


Identifying asbestos containing components in vehicles can be difficult if there is an absence of identifying marks, service records or supplier details. If there is uncertainty (based on reasonable grounds) as to whether any of the components are likely to contain asbestos, then you must either:

  • assume asbestos is present; or
  • arrange for analysis of a sample to be undertaken.

Assessing and controlling the risk

Asbestos-containing brake pads, brake shoes and clutch plates wear during use, leaving a coating of asbestos fibres and dust on the component and surrounding parts. Asbestos-containing cylinder heads and exhaust gaskets can become powdery with heat and readily release dust and fibres when disturbed. Disturbing any of these components once they have begun to wear can release large quantities of asbestos fibres into the air.

Asbestos fibres can spread large distances and may remain airborne for many hours after the job is finished. In this way the fibres can spread to other areas posing a risk other persons in the workshop.

Control measures need to be in place to protect workers from exposure. Employers should start by watching and noting how workshop employees undertake their work to establish how they might be exposed to asbestos-containing materials and the level of exposure. An assessment of the adequacy of any control measures in place will help to identify the risk of exposure and whether risk controls need modifying.

If you are unsure of the risk or how to undertake a risk assessment, consider engaging a health & safety specialist to assist with your risk assessment.

Packaging, transport and disposal

The packaging, transport and disposal of asbestos waste (or suspected asbestos waste) must be in line with EPA controls.

Practical methods of controlling the risk of exposure to asbestos

Compressed air, aerosol cans and water hoses should not be used to clean asbestos dust off components in the open workshop, as these methods will disperse large numbers of fibres into the air.

Isolation of asbestos-handling area

  • Isolating the area where asbestos components are being cleaned and removed will minimise risks to other people
  • The isolated area should be in a location where undue air movement such as wind or cooling fans will not disturb any dust.

Wet method

  • Use a fine spray of water to prevent dust from being dispersed. It is important that only a gentle misting spray is used, as a coarse spray will disperse the asbestos fibres into the air.
  • Use a damp rag to wipe down the component and parts.
  • Use a fresh rag for each vehicle being serviced.
  • Place all contaminated rags into a plastic bag and then into an asbestos waste disposal bin.

Using an industrial vacuum cleaner

  • Do not use a domestic or standard vacuum cleaner to clean up asbestos waste.
  • Any vacuum cleaner used for asbestos must be fitted with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter and comply with AS3544 Industrial vacuum cleaners for particulates hazardous to health.

Respiratory protection

  • Wear a respirator that complies with Australian Standard AS/NZS1716 Respiratory protective devices (with a P1 or P2 filter) during the cleaning processes.
  • Use the respirator as per the Australian standard and manufacturer’s instructions to ensure it provides the correct protection.
  • Used disposable respirators should be treated as asbestos contaminated waste and disposed of accordingly. Non-disposable respirators must be cleaned after each use and stored according to the manufacturer’s instruction.

Laundering of contaminated clothing

  • Contaminated disposable protective clothing is to be treated as asbestos waste.
  • Non-disposable protective clothing is to be placed in a heavy-duty plastic bag.
  • Clearly mark the bag to indicate that the clothing is contaminated with asbestos.
  • Have the clothing laundered at an industrial laundry.
  • Protective clothing should be changed daily.

Do's and don'ts for the motor repair trade

Ensure that everyone in the workshop understands the hazardous nature of asbestos. Don't assume that workers are already aware of the dangers of asbestos.
Develop and implement safe work procedures for brake, clutch and gasket work. Don't use generic work method statements without checking whether it is applicable to the workplace.
Ensure that everyone potentially exposed to asbestos has been trained in safe work procedures. Don't assume that employees will understand everything covered in the training. Verify by feedback.
Ensure that the work is adequately supervised.Don't assume that unmarked friction components & gaskets are asbestos free. ALWAYS use safe work procedures.
Regularly review the safe work procedures with employees.Don't forget about consulting with employees on OHS issues.
Only use vacuum cleaners that comply with AS3544.Don't use domestic vacuum cleaners, even if fitted with a HEPA filter.
Select respirators that comply with Australian Standard AS1716.Don’t wear respirators that have not been face fitted and leak tested.
Wear respirators in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations.Don't wear a particulate or cartridge respirator with facial hair. Use a positive pressure or airline respirator instead.
Provide a designated, segregated area for asbestos tasks to be undertaken.Don't loosen brake drums by hitting them with a hammer, as this may release asbestos fibres.
Practice good personal hygiene. Always wash your hands before eating or smoking.Don't eat, drink or smoke in work areas.
Ensure that contaminated rags are disposed of after each job.Don't let contaminated rags lie around to dry out.
Add a wetting agent, such as detergent, when wetting down components.Don't use too much water when wetting down insitu brake dust.
Place contaminated protective clothing in a labelled plastic bag and have this laundered at an industrial laundry.Don't take contaminated clothing home for laundering.
Obtain the advice of a competent person when designing, installing or maintaining local exhaust ventilation systems.Don't use compressed air to blow out brake drums or remove dust from surfaces.