Is there asbestos in my workplace?
How can I recognise it?
More than 3000 asbestos containing products have been identified. In Australia most asbestos containing materials (ACMs) were manufactured by companies James Hardie, Colonial Sugar Refinery Limited (CSR), Goliath Cement and Wunderlich. These products have been used in thousands of commercial and private buildings.
Until the mid-1980s, asbestos was widely used in building materials. If your house or workplace was built or renovated before 1990, the building is likely to contain asbestos in one form or another. In some instances it appears ACMs have been stockpiled or recycled and used in buildings built as late as the mid-1990s.
While asbestos cement sheeting was not manufactured in Australia after the mid-1980s, other products were still available. Asbestos continued to be used in gaskets, electrical insulators and brake linings for many years.
Asbestos can be identified by a simple laboratory test. However, some asbestos containing materials, such as “Super 6” corrugated cement sheeting, are easy to identify once you are familiar with them.
Some common uses of asbestos
Also found in
- Textured paints & sealants
- Insulation in hair dryers & other electrical appliances
- Thermal insulation in rooves
- Insulation in the core of fire doors
- Insulation in the lining of security safe
There are two classes of asbestos containing materials
Friable asbestos material is any asbestos containing material that can be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to powder by hand pressure when dry. Friable asbestos was mainly used in industrial applications such as:
- pipe lagging
- sprayed limpet
- asbestos cloth and rope
For decades asbestos lagging was used in large quantities to insulate pipes, furnaces and boilers.
In bonded product asbestos fibres are mixed into another material such as cement or rubber which bonds them within the material. Bonded asbestos cannot be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to a powder by hand pressure when dry. Bonded asbestos products include:
- flat sheeting (fibro)
- corrugated (often used for roofing)
- moulded guttering
- water drainage and flue pipes
- asbestos rubber floor tiles.
Activities such as water blasting, sanding and drilling will damage bonded asbestos and may cause it to release fibres and become friable.
Fire, hail and storm damage and even normal weathering over time can have the same effect.
Removal - how do we get rid of it?
It is legal for someone to remove up to 10m2 of bonded asbestos containing material in a domestic situation if they follow strict safety procedures in control, removal, wrapping, labelling, transport and disposal.
In a workplace any person working with asbestos must be properly trained. Removing asbestos is a dangerous and complicated process and is best carried out by licensed professionals who have completed the required training.
A list of licensed asbestos removalists is available on the
Tasmanian Workplace Standards website at: