Asbestos was widely used as a building material until banned in the 1990s. If you are undertaking work on an older home or commercial property it may contain asbestos materials.
There are two types of asbestos:
- friable (non-bonded) asbestos products contains loosely packed asbestos fibres. These materials are potentially dangerous because asbestos fibres can be easily released into the air.
- non-friable (bonded) asbestos products are usually bonded with cement or a similar material. The asbestos fibres are tightly bound in the product and are not normally released into the air unless they are disturbed, damaged or badly weathered. If these products remain in good condition and are left undisturbed they present no known health risks.
A licence is required to remove more than 10m2 of non-friable asbestos-containing material.
There are two licence classes
- Class A licence holders can remove all asbestos-containing materials, including friable asbestos materials
- Class B licence holders can remove any amount of non-friable asbestos.
Asbestos in homes and workplaces
Asbestos.sa.gov.au provides full details on identifying, managing and disposing of asbestos. The website gives details on licencing requirements and how to protect yourself, co-workers and members of the public from asbestos during the removal process.
When dealing with asbestos you must also refer to the Codes of Practices:
The person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU) who commissions the licensed asbestos removal work at a workplace is responsible for arranging the air monitoring at that workplace. If the workplace is a residential premises, the licensed asbestos removalist carrying out the removal work is responsible for arranging the air monitoring.
An independent licensed asbestos assessor for asbestos removal must conduct air monitoring (for both Class A and Class B licences). The air monitoring assessment must take place immediately before and during licensed asbestos removal work.
In a workplace, the PCBU must distribute the results of the air monitoring to:
- health and safety representatives
- any other person at the workplace.
Amendment from 1 January 2021
Following consultation, the WHS Regulations have been amended to make permanent the long standing requirement in South Australia:
that an independent licensed asbestos assessor conduct air monitoring for asbestos removal under both Class A and Class B licences.
The permanent amendment to the regulations is in effect from 1 January 2021 and ensures that the requirement for continuous air monitoring during Class A and Class B asbestos removals.
- maintains the long-standing requirement for continuous air monitoring during Class A and Class B asbestos removals in South Australia
- provides certainty to the asbestos removal industry and the community that this long standing requirement will continue and
- ensures greater administrative efficiency for SafeWork SA and asbestos removal industry stakeholders.
Background to the amendment
Continuous air monitoring during Class A and Class B asbestos removals was a requirement under the repealed Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986.
When the WHS legislation was adopted in South Australia, a commitment was given not to decrease the level of safety provided by the existing Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare legislation. However, as the model WHS Regulations only make air monitoring mandatory for asbestos removal under a Class A licence, the requirement for air monitoring for removal under a Class B licence was implemented through a transitional regulation in the WHS Regulations (regulation 726). This provision was to expire on 31 December 2020.
The amendment the WHS Regulations comes into effect through the Work Health and Safety (Miscellaneous) Variation Regulations 2020.
Addendum to the How to Safely Remove Asbestos Code of Practice in relation to air monitoring
In South Australia, air monitoring is required for the removal of both friable and non-friable asbestos.
Page 26 of the How to Safely Remove Asbestos Code of Practice states that air monitoring is not required when removing more than 10sq m of non‑friable asbestos. This is not the case in South Australia. Air monitoring is required when removing friable asbestos and designated quantities of non-friable asbestos.
The Code further states on page 27 that air monitoring may be carried out before and during Class B asbestos removal work. In South Australia, air monitoring is a mandatory requirement for both Class A and Class B asbestos removal work.
Also on page 27 the Code states a PCBU that commissions asbestos removal work at a workplace is only required to ensure air monitoring is undertaken for Class A licensed removals and to communicate the air monitoring results (as stated on page 28). In South Australia, PCBUs commissioning asbestos removal work at workplaces must ensure air monitoring is undertaken and the results communicated for both Class A and Class B licensed removals.
In summary, in South Australia:
- air monitoring is required for the removal of both friable and non-friable asbestos
- air monitoring is a mandatory requirement for both Class A and Class B asbestos removal work
- PCBUs commissioning asbestos removal work at workplaces must ensure air monitoring is undertaken and the results communicated for both Class A and Class B licensed removals.