Working with asbestos - NSW legislation

The NSW Government has legislation in place for the handling of asbestos.

Please access the most up-to-date guides and fact sheets via Safework NSW Asbestos page.

Asbestos is the generic term for a number of fibrous silicate minerals. Asbestos was commonly used in cement sheeting (fibro) drainage and flue pipes, roofing, guttering and flexible building boards (for example Villaboard and Hardiflex). Similar cement sheeting products are used today, but are 'asbestos free'.  Asbestos also had a variety other uses including brake linings, clutches and gaskets.

Disturbing asbestos may cause asbestos fibres to become airborne and if inhaled it can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.  Further information relating to the health risks associated with asbestos may be obtained at NSW Health - Fact Sheet on Asbestos.

The provisions of removal of asbestos are that a Work-Cover license is required to remove more than 10m2 of bonded asbestos.  If the asbestos material is under this amount, then a license is not required however precautions are still required to be undertaken to ensure the safe removal of bonded asbestos.

A Work-Cover licensed friable asbestos removalist must always carry out the removal of friable asbestos.  A site specific permit from Work-Cover must be obtained to carry out this type of work.

There are special conditions of development consent imposed by Narrabri Shire Council for demolition, renovation, re-cladding or brick veneering buildings erected before 1987 due to the possibility of asbestos. This is to ensure the safety of workers and neighbouring residents.
Asbestos waste is to be promptly disposed of to a landfill site licensed to accept it.  It is illegal to dispose of asbestos waste in domestic garbage bins.  It is also illegal to recycle, re-use or illegally dump asbestos products.

Should a person not comply with the terms of the Consent then there is a range of actions that could be taken to enforce compliance and these include issue of directions on the site, the service of Orders, the issue of a Penalty Infringement Notice (on-the-spot fine), or the launching of prosecution proceedings in the appropriate court.


Crocidolite (blue asbestos) was used in many fibrous cement products before 1970 and several other types were used until 1986. A large number of products made from asbestos cement can still be found in Australian buildings. These include flat, corrugated or compressed asbestos cement sheeting, asbestos cement pipes such as water, drainage and flue pipes, roofing shingles and guttering.

Only fibro products made before 1987 contain asbestos.

In the absence of an analysis, all asbestos cement sheeting must be treated as though containing amosite or crocidolite forms of asbestos as well as chrysotile.

Health Risks

If asbestos cement products are left undisturbed and in good condition, they present no significant health risk. However, safety precautions must be taken when renovating or demolishing a building that has asbestos cement materials. Prolonged unprotected exposure to asbestos dust and fibres may result in asbestosis (a form of lung cancer) or related respiratory complications.

Working with and removing asbestos cement products

A WorkCover licensed company must carry out all work 10m2 and over.

Use a licensed asbestos removal contractor to assist with removal and disposal if the asbestos cement is damaged
You do not need a licence to remove less than 10m2 of fibro, but you should be familiar with asbestos regulations. All work procedures involving asbestos cement should be devised to minimise the release of dust and fibres. The safety precautions you should take when working with or removing these products include:

  • Prior to the commencement of any work, occupants of all adjoining premises are to be advised so that appropriate measures can be taken to avoid exposure
  • Close all windows and doors of houses and similar buildings. In factory type buildings where there are no ceilings, the area below or adjacent to the work should be roped off or barriers erected
  • Wear disposable coveralls and an approved* dust respirator
  • Do not use power tools (other than drills for the removal of the roofing screws)
  • Do not waterblast or scrub with a stiff broom. It is illegal to waterblast asbestos-cement products
  • Seal asbestos cement sheets with PVA paint or wet with water – seal roof with PVA paint well before removal so workers do not slip on a wet roof
  • Wet down material to reduce the release of dust. High water pressure must not be used
  • Wet clean gutters and collect the material for proper disposal
  • Never cut into a fibro sheet. Always remove the entire sheet and replace with a non-asbestos product
  • Do not drop asbestos sheets. Use drop sheets to collect any accidental breakages
  • Clean all asbestos cement residues from the roof space, where applicable, and the site, using an approved* vacuum cleaner or wet methods. Do not use household vacuum cleaners
  • Do not reuse asbestos cement products. The use of asbestos is now illegal
  • All asbestos waste must be wet removed from the site as soon as possible in covered bins or on a covered truck
  • The waste must be disposed of at a Waste Management Centre approved by the NSW Environment Protection Authority
  • Coveralls and masks must be placed in a plastic bag for disposal. Overalls should be laundered separate to clothes

Safe disposal

All asbestos waste should be kept wet. Make sure all asbestos waste is either wrapped in plastic or put in lined bins or vehicles and covered. Remove all waste from the site in a covered vehicle, as soon as practicable. All waste containing asbestos must be disposed of at a Waste Management Centre approved by the NSW Environment Protection Authority, in an approved manner.

Council requirements

Development Approval must be obtained from Council for demolition work (other than demolition permitted under Council’s Exempt Development DCP). Details of the proposed demolition works, including method and disposal of waste, are to be provided with the Development Application, Including Hazardous substance Audit, Hazardous substance Management plan in accordance with AS2601-2001, Work cover permits and Licensing, OH&S Risk Assessments and Work Method statements and Relevant Insurances.

Help and advice

The most accurate way to find out if your fibro contains asbestos is for experienced people to inspect and test it. You cannot tell by looking at it. Details of asbestos testing authorities and licensed asbestos removal contractors are available from Work-Cover’s Asbestos and Demolition Unit on 131 050 or 02 9370 5301.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority’s Licensing Section 131 555 or 02 9325 5686 can provide details of approved waste disposal locations.

For further information contact Council’s Planning and Environment Department.

All work carried out on asbestos cement is to be in accordance with those provisions relating to asbestos cement pursuant to the Regulations 84A-J "Construction Work Involving Asbestos or Asbestos Cement"1983, as amended 1984, and the Occupational Health and Safety (Asbestos Removal Work) Regulation 1996.

Approved*: Refers to safety cleaning/removal equipment that meets standard Australian requirements for working with asbestos and its safe removal.

If you are concerned about how asbestos is being handled contact Council’s Planning and Environment Department.

Further information can be obtained from:

WorkCover Authority of New South Wales - Asbestos 
 Safe Work Australia Website
Think Asbestos 
Fibro and Asbestos - A Renovator's and Homeowner's Guide 
Handling and Disposal of Fibrous Cement Products