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Asbestos and residential building work

This information provides an overview of the NSW regulatory requirements when a builder and/or tradesperson is going to commence work on a residential property that has or may have asbestos present. It’s limited to parts of the regulation relating to work on residential buildings. You should also consider requirements related to workplaces containing asbestos if necessary.

Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017

The Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulation 2017 and the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2014 contain requirements that builders and tradesmen must be aware of if working on residential buildings.

The WHS regulation requires that if a person is going to demolish or refurbish a residential building that was constructed before 31 December 2003 they must identify and then remove any asbestos that is likely to be disturbed, before commencing work. If there is asbestos present then there must be an emergency plan in place in case anything goes wrong.

The waste regulation contains requirements regarding the transport of asbestos, such as when taking asbestos to a waste facility.

How can I Identify asbestos?

Before commencing any demolition or refurbishment work on a residential building that was constructed before 31 December 2003, any asbestos-containing materials (ACM) must be identified by a competent person.

If certain areas of the building cannot be accessed for inspection, but are likely to have asbestos present, then the person in charge of the work must assume that asbestos is present.

To assist in identifying ACM, the competent person can arrange for a sample of material at the workplace to be analysed for the presence of asbestos. An accredited NATA laboratory can be used for the analysis. You can find a laboratory by contacting NATA.

Note that care should be exercised when retrieving samples for analysis. Some accredited laboratories offer sample collection as part of their service. For more information contact SafeWork NSW.

Removing asbestos

Once ACM has been identified, if it is likely to be disturbed it must be removed by a licensed asbestos remover. The person conducting the work is responsible for ensuring that the asbestos remover is licensed.

You can check on an asbestos remover’s license – and be aware that the licensed asbestos remover is required to give five days’ notice to SafeWork NSW before commencing work.

The removal of 10m2 or less of non-friable asbestos is exempt from the license requirements. However, the WHS regulation requires that the person conducting the business must ensure that the removal work is undertaken by a competent person who has been trained in how to remove and handle asbestos.

Note that asbestos removal, regardless of the amount to be removed, is a high-risk activity and a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) must be completed before commencing work.

Transporting asbestos

The Waste Regulation requires that a person transporting asbestos must report certain information to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), including where the waste has come from, where it is going, when it is going and the amount.

If 10m2 or less of asbestos sheet material is to be transported, it does not have to be reported to the EPA.

Asbestos may only be taken to a landfill site that is lawfully permitted to receive asbestos waste.

A person who transports asbestos must ensure that the part of the vehicle transporting the asbestos is covered and leakproof during transport. Non-friable asbestos must also be securely packaged during transport.

Note there are additional transport requirements for other types of asbestos. HIA members should check their insurance coverage before transporting any amount of asbestos. If an accident occurs during transport you may not be covered for the clean-up or injury caused by the asbestos, which could include emergency services and traffic control charges. 

To find out more, contact HIA’s Building Services team.

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