Dealing with asbestos is the responsibility of the homeowner.

If you are thinking of undertaking any repairs, renovation and demolition work in a house built prior to the mid-1980s, use the find and identify tool and the residential asbestos checklist to help identify where asbestos might be present.

While there is no legal requirement for individual homeowners to have a licence to remove asbestos-containing material from their own property some jobs are best left to the experts. Due to the risk of exposure during removal, it is recommended that homeowners engage a licensed asbestos removalist who will have the proper training and equipment to safely remove the asbestos from your home.

Builders and tradies are not permitted to remove more than 10m2 of non-friable material without an asbestos removal licence.

If you engage a contractor, licensed asbestos removalist, builder or tradie your home (or part of) becomes a workplace while the work is being done and the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) and Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA) apply. In this case, the legal duties to protect work health and safety are placed on the contractor/licensed asbestos removalist, not the homeowner.

Undertaking asbestos removal work yourself

If you decide to undertake asbestos removal work yourself you should follow safe work procedures and safety precautions to minimise asbestos fibres getting into the air and risking your health or the health of your family and neighbours.

If you are carrying out maintenance such as painting or sealing asbestos cement surfaces without sanding, cutting or drilling (that is you are not releasing any asbestos fibres into the air), you only need to take the usual precautions for these activities such as working in a ventilated area.

Remember if you are removing friable asbestos you must use a licensed asbestos removalist. It is also recommended that you use a licensed asbestos removalist if disturbing a large quantity of non-friable asbestos.

Safe work procedures and safety precautions

  • Organise equipment

    Your local hardware store should be able to supply all of the materials and equipment you will need.

    Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

    Wearing the right PPE is essential to protect your health when working with asbestos. Ensure you have the following PPE:

    • Respirator/Dust Mask: Wear a P1 or P2 disposable respirator appropriate for asbestos (Australian Standards approved). Ordinary dust masks are not effective in preventing the inhalation of asbestos fibres and dust.
    • Disposable Coveralls: Wear type 5, category 3 disposable coveralls or equivalent to prevent the contamination of clothing and footwear.
    • Protective disposable gloves.
    • Lace-less boots (eg gum boots) or shoe covers.

    Other Equipment

    • Polythene (plastic) sheeting/bags at least 200-microns thick (eg heavy-duty builders' plastic).
    • Duct tape to seal the bags.
    • Cloths for cleaning up.
    • Spray bottle for wetting down surfaces.
    • PVA glue to add to water to bond fibres.
    • Non-powered hand tools.These generate smaller amounts of dust, and produce waste chips that are coarser than those generated when using power tools.
    • A vacuum cleaner with a dust class level 'H' filterum cleaner. Do not use a domestic or standard vacuum which will cause asbestos dust to pass right through the filter and blow back into the air.
  • Inform others

    • Inform your neighbours of the proposed work and advise them to close doors and windows while the work is being undertaken.
    • Remember to notify them when the work is complete.
  • Prepare the area

    • Turn off power (if required).
    • Clear away loose objects.
    • Cover drain holes.
    • Use barrier tape to restrict the work area (if required).
    • Place heavy-duty polythene sheeting (200-micron thick) under the removal area to catch any dust and debris and to make clean-up easier.
    • Fill spray bottles with water (or 1:10 PVA glue to water mixture).
    • Keep household members, visitors and pets away from the area until the work is completed.
    • If working indoors:
      • isolate the area you are working on from the rest of the building by closing and sealing internal doors
      • do not spread asbestos dust through areas of the building that are not protected by plastic sheeting (eg by walking through unprotected areas).
    • If working outdoors:
      • do not undertake asbestos removal work on a windy day
      • remove play equipment, personal belongings and vehicles from the work area
      • close all windows and doors and cover air vents to prevent asbestos fibres from entering the building
      • cover soil and vegetation with heavy duty polythene sheeting.
  • Suit up

    • Put on your PPE (respirator/dust mask, disposable coveralls, lace-less boots).
    • Ensure you wear the respiratory protection correctly and put the respirator on first (so it can come off last).
  • Wet the area

    • Spray the area being removed or dismantled with water (or 1:10 PVA to water mixture).
    • Do not use high-pressure water jets to wet surfaces as this may increase the spread of loose fibres or dust. Never water blast asbestos cement products.
    • Do not wet down roofing sheets if this will create a high risk of slipping.
  • Prepare the surface

    • If repainting, gently remove any loose paint with a paint scraper.
    • Do not dry-sand, wire-brush or scrape surfaces to be painted.
    • Never drill holes through eaves, flues or vents.
    • Treat any fixtures removed (screws, nails etc) as asbestos-contaminated waste.
  • Handle asbestos cement and sheeting with care

    • Do not use power tools, abrasive cutting or sanding discs, or compressed air on asbestos cement as these will contribute to airborne dust and debris.
    • Never cut into an asbestos cement sheet.
    • Be careful when you are on a roof as asbestos sheets can be brittle.
    • Pull out any nails to help remove sheeting with minimal breakage.
    • Remove asbestos cement sheets carefully, avoid breakage and do not drop them.
    • Carefully stack asbestos cement/sheeting on two layers of heavy duty polythene sheeting (200-micron thick). Do not slide one sheet over another as this may abrade the surface of the materials, and increase the likelihood of releasing fibres and dust.
    • If significant work is required on a roof sheet, remove and replace it with a non-asbestos product.
    • Do not leave asbestos cement products around the garden or other locations where they may be broken.
    • Do not store or reuse asbestos cement sheeting.
  • Package up waste

    • Keep your respirator on until all other disposable equipment and waste has been bagged and sealed.
    • Keep dust, debris and offcuts damp with water.
    • Treat all waste created during the work as if it contains asbestos.
    • Carefully fold and place drop sheets in two (double bagged) 200-micron thick polythene bags.
    • Place smaller sized asbestos waste such as tiles, offcuts and dust in two (double bagged) 200-micron thick polythene bags, then tie and seal for disposal with the other asbestos waste.
    • Only half fill bags (to minimise the risk of splitting) and gently evacuate excess air in a way that does not cause the release of dust.
    • Completely seal the bags with adhesive tape.
    • Label bags with 'DANGER – ASBESTOS WASTE – DO NOT INHALE DUST' using a permanent marker pen.
    • Do not place asbestos waste in domestic garbage bins and compactors (see safe disposal).
  • Clean the area

    • Keep your respirator on until all other disposable equipment and waste has been bagged and sealed.
    • Thoroughly clean the work area, tools and equipment with a wet cloth as soon as possible after finishing the job and place debris into waste bags.
    • Treat the cleaning cloths as asbestos-contaminated waste and place in 200-micron thick polythene bags.
    • Do not sweep up dust.
    • Use a dust class level 'H' filterum vacuum cleaner that conforms to Australian Standards to clean away dust particles. Avoid using attachments with brushes.
  • Remove PPE

    • Leave your respirator on until all contaminated clothing is removed, bagged and sealed.
    • Remove disposable coveralls and gloves and turn inside out (do not shake off dust). Do not keep or recycle disposable PPE.
    • Place disposable coveralls and cleaning cloths in two (double bagged) 200-micron thick polythene bags.
    • Seal bag and wipe with damp cloth and place into a second bag.
    • Wash or wipe reusable footwear using wet cloths.
    • Clean all exposed skin before taking respirator off.
    • Place respirator and cleaning cloth into the second bag.
    • Seal and label the bag 'DANGER – ASBESTOS WASTE – DO NOT INHALE DUST'.
    • Immediately afterwards thoroughly clean your hands and fingernails to remove any dust and asbestos (even if gloves were worn). Shower and wash hair.
  • Dispose of waste safely

    • Contact your local EPA approved asbestos waste disposal facility for advice on disposal requirements as well as the cost of disposal.
    • As soon as possible after completing the building work, securely transport and dispose of the packages to your local asbestos waste disposal facility.
    • Alternatively, hire a mini-skip from a company that specialises in asbestos waste removal and fill it with your bagged asbestos waste and have it collected by the waste company.
    • Do not dispose of asbestos during council 'hard rubbish' collections or dump waste illegally.
    • It is illegal to dispose of asbestos waste in domestic bins.
    • Do not reuse or recycle asbestos waste.