If your house was built or renovated before 1987, it's likely to contain asbestos.
You need to know what asbestos is and what precautions to take if you are planning to renovate or make repairs around your home, just in case you are dealing with asbestos.
Asbestos materials are often best left alone if they are in good condition and unlikely to get damaged.
If you are thinking about renovating or doing home maintenance visit www.asbestosawareness.com.au or call 1800 Asbestos (1800 272 378).
The asbestos awareness website contains a database of asbestos-containing products as well as a video that demonstrates the many locations in older homes where asbestos can be hidden.
If asbestos is disturbed, for example during home renovations, it can release dangerous dust containing very fine asbestos fibres. There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos fibres, and no cure for asbestos diseases. The dangers of asbestos are summarised here.
The most accurate way to find out if you have asbestos in your property is to have a licensed asbestos removal specialist inspect and test it. It is really important to have a professional risk assessment for asbestos undertaken before renovating an older home.
Important information for renovators and owner-builders
As the property owner, it is your obligation to find out if you need planning or other approvals for the proposed work. Further information on approvals required is located here.
Many types of home renovations and minor building projects don't need approval from a Council or accredited certifier. Such projects include the replacement and demolition of kitchens, bathrooms, doors, windows, ceilings, patios and car ports. This is called exempt development. As long as the building project meets specific standards and land requirements no planning or building approval is needed.
The standards you must comply with for most exempt development works are in State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008.
Although these types of works do not require planning approval and can be undertaken by any home renovator, if they involve the removal of more than 10m2 of bonded or friable asbestos a suitably licenced person is required to do the work.
If the work includes the removal of less than 10m2 of non-friable asbestos, property owners are permitted to do the work but in a manner that minimises risks. See the useful ‘Do It Yourself’ guide for renovators titled Safety information for removal of less than 10m2 of non-friable asbestos, which has been recently published (April 2017) by the Australian Government.
If you do need to work with a small amount of material that may contain asbestos, it is very important to ensure you don’t undertake any activity that can release asbestos fibres from non-friable asbestos into the air. These activities include cutting, drilling, sanding, scraping, scrubbing and water-blasting.
Given the risks involved with handling asbestos, renovators are always encouraged to engage a licensed asbestos removal contractor to remove asbestos from older properties.
Disposal of asbestos materials
Asbestos waste must be disposed of correctly – it cannot be dumped into demolition waste skips or rubbish bins. Asbestos waste should be separated from other demolition waste and kept damp to minimise dust. For disposal, asbestos waste should be wrapped in heavy duty thick plastic and secured with tape prior.
Refer to the factsheet Fibro & Asbestos—A Renovator and Homeowner’s Guide which demonstrates how to dispose of asbestos in a safe and appropriate manner.
Facilities that are licenced to accept household asbestos waste from the public are listed on the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s website, according to region.
Alternatively, contact your local council to find a landfill site that may lawfully receive asbestos waste in your area.
Renovations and alterations to residential property that require development consent
Local Development proposals are those that require development consent under Part 4 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act). Such development includes alterations and additions to residential development, which may include internal work (i.e. alterations to load bearing walls) as well as extensions to the existing main structure, or changes to outbuildings, sheds or garages.
Consent for local development can be obtained through:
- the issue of a complying development certificate (CDC) from a council or private accredited certifier following assessment using specified predetermined development standards outlined in the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008; or
- the issue of a development consent, where a development application (DA) is assessed and determined by the local Council.
When a private certifier issues a CDC and is appointed as the Principal Certifying Authority for development being undertaken by an owner-builder, it is the private certifier’s responsibility to ensure that any works, including asbestos handling, removal and disposal, are carried out appropriately and in accordance with the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 (clause 136E).
When a Council issues a development consent, it may impose conditions and a waste disposal policy to ensure the safe removal of asbestos, where asbestos has been identified or may be assumed to be present.
Since 18 January 2010, the removal of asbestos material by licensed contractors is required to comply with Australian Standard AS 2601 - The demolition of structures.
Naturally Occurring Asbestos
Naturally Occurring Asbestos (NOA) is a name given to certain fibrous silicate minerals found naturally in rock, sediment, or soil. These asbestos minerals are commonly found in veins within rock formations. Naturally occurring asbestos is most commonly found by council staff and contractors who are building roads, working on construction sites and undertaking excavation activities.
Asbestos fibres in these soils and rocks should remain undisturbed. However, when rock containing NOA is broken or crushed through disturbance or development, asbestos may become released and become airborne, creating a potential health hazard.
Less than 1% of NSW is affected by rock types with a significant potential to contain NOA. Safework NSW has mapped these areas.
If NOA is identified at a workplace, or is likely to be present at a workplace, it is a legal requirement of the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2017 that an Asbestos Management Plan is developed by a person with management or control of the workplace. The Asbestos Management Plan should identify risks and formulate management strategies ensuring NOA is managed safely.
Information for Councils
The Model Asbestos Policy 2015 was developed by Local Government NSW on behalf of the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities (HACA) Working Group. The policy promotes a consistent approach to asbestos management by Local Government across NSW, and:
- can be used as the basis for councils’ own asbestos policies;
- outlines councils’ important legislative obligations;
- was developed with input from council representatives; and
- was issued to all councils by the Office of Local Government under section 23A of the Local Government Act 1993 in 2013.
Page last updated: 08/11/2022