Working with Asbestos

Tradies need to know what to look for when out on a job. All commercial and industrial buildings are required to have an Asbestos Register, which must be kept up to date. Any asbestos present in the building should have a warning sign – DANGER ASBESTOS. Ask to see the Asbestos Register before starting work.

At present residential homes are not required to keep an Asbestos Register. Knowing whether asbestos is present in a home is essential before considering renovation, repair work, or demolition.

Asbestos can be found in fibro sheeting, wet areas, pipes or partitions. The most dangerous form is friable, or loose fill. This could be located in walls or roofs as insulation, packed into meter boxes or lagging around pipes.

Asbestos cannot be identified by simply looking at it – it requires a test at a NATA accredited laboratory. If you suspect that the work area contains asbestos – STOP! Speak to your boss or the site manager, or to your health & safety rep or union rep. You can also contact SafeWork SA or your local health and safety regulator.

All asbestos is dangerous, especially when broken up or in poor condition. It can be disturbed by power tools such as electric drills, circular saws or angle grinders. It can be spread by the use of a power hose (it is illegal to use a power hose on asbestos roofs in South Australia). Asbestos fibres are invisible to the naked eye but can be easily inhaled and can lead to a life-threatening medical condition.


There are also strict rules about the disposal of asbestos. It must be taken to a transfer station that is authorised to deal with asbestos. If the amount is over 10 square meters, it must be disposed of by a licenced professional.