This chapter has not been update to the 2017 regulations

Part 4.3 of the regulations (Part 4.4 in the 2017 regulations) deals with fixed or installed asbestos in the workplace, and seek to protect workers and others from exposure to asbestos fibres in the workplace or during removal. A Dangerous Goods Order (referred to in the reg) generally prohibits the removal of asbestos that is not fixed except by licensed removalists.

Note: these regulations do NOT apply to domestic premises unless they become workplaces.

The Regulations cover asbestos in the following broad areas:

  • in situ asbestos, fixed or installed in buildings, structures, ships and plant;
  • demolition and refurbishment of buildings, structures, ships and plant with in situ asbestos;
  • asbestos processes which include asbestos removal, handling and manufacture of articles containing asbestos, processes, resulting in airborne asbestos in excess of one half the exposure standard, maintenance of plant used in any asbestos processes and laundering of asbestos contaminated personal protective equipment.

The sections of the Regulations are as follows:

  • Division 1 - Introductory matters
  • Division 2 - General Requirements -This is an important section which details the duties of occupiers and employers.
  • Division 3 - Prohibitions under the OHS Act, 2004
  • Division 4 - Prohibitions under the Dangerous Goods Act, 1985
  • Division 5 - Asbestos in the workplace ("In situ") This part includes the duties of employers
  • Division 6 - Demolition and refurbishment where asbestos is present
  • Division 7 - Removal of asbestos
  • Division 8 - Activities involving asbestos

Below is a summary only - and not all sections of the regulations have been summarised, only those most important to workers in workplaces where there might be asbestos. Always ensure that you have checked the full text of the regulations before taking any action. The full text of the regulations can be viewed and downloaded from the Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents website -  click on Victorian Law Today, then on Statutory Rules, and then on "O" to find the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations.

Definitions

  1. Friable means, when dry -
    1. may be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to powder by hand pressure; or
    2. as a result of a work process becomes such that it may be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to powder by hand pressure
  2. Non-friable is when the asbestos or the asbestos-containing material is in a state that is NOT friable. 

Division 2 - General Requirements

Control risk of exposure - person who manages or controls workplace

A person who manages or controls a workplace must -

  • eliminate, or where this is not reasonably practicable, must reduce the exposure of persons at the workplace to airborne asbestos fibres so far as is reasonably practicable
  • ensure that a person at the workplace is not exposed to an atmospheric concentration of asbestos fibres above the exposure standard
  • ensure that a determination of an employee's exposure to airborne asbestos fibres is carried out if there is uncertainty (based on reasonable grounds) as to whether the exposure standard has been exceeded
  • ensure that copies of results of atmospheric monitoring are accessible to an employer at the workplace

Note: The exposure standard for all forms of asbestos is 0·1 f/ml (fibres per millilitre) calculated over an 8 hour working day and measured over a minimum period of 4 hours in accordance with the Membrane Filter Method or in accordance with a method as determined by the Authority.

Control risk of exposure - employer or self-employed person

An employer or self-employed person must has the same duties as listed above, but with respect to airborne asbestos fibres arising out of the 'undertaking of the employer' - that is, his business. An employer must ensure that copies of results of atmospheric monitoring are accessible to the health and safety representative of any affected designated work group and to affected employees.

Analysis by approved analyst

If an analysis of any sample is required under this Part, the analysis must be undertaken by an approved analyst, and reported in accordance with the requirements of NATA.

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Division 3 - Prohibitions under the OHS Act, 2004

The following are prohibited:

  • removal of asbestos, except by a licensed asbestos removalist or an employee of the removalist (or in certain limited circumstances as detailed in Division 7 OR if the removal is for sampling and identification)
  • the removal of contaminated protective clothing from workplaces unless it is:
    • identified as containing asbestos; and
    • contained so that airborne asbestos fibres cannot be released; and
    • either disposed of as asbestos waste, or is sent to a commercial laundry
  • the use of certain tools or instruments: brooms; brushes (except when used for sealing); high pressure water jets, power tools or other similar instruments cannot be used on asbestos-containing material except in certain well-controlled areas or if the tools are enclosed
  • the use of compressed air or other gases on asbestos or within 6 metres of an activity involving asbestos (unless this does not result in airborne asbestos fibres of more than half the exposure standard)

Division 4 - Prohibitions under the Dangerous Goods Act 1985

These further prohibitions apply to ALL forms of asbestos:

  • the manufacture of asbestos-containing material
  • the supply of asbestos
  • the storage of asbestos
  • transport of asbestos (does not apply to transport for disposal or laundering)
  • the sale of asbestos
  • the use of asbestos
  • the re-use, installation and replacement of asbestos-containing material
  • asbestos in any form - both amphibole (amosite, crocidolite, actinolite, anthophyllite or tremolite) and chrysotile cannot be used in any workplace. 

Note there are certain exemptions - so check the full text of Part 4.3 of the regulations.

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Division 5 - Asbestos in Workplaces (In Situ)

Duties of persons who manage or control workplaces

Persons who manage or control workplaces must:

  • identify asbestos at the workplace - the type of asbestos, its location, its condition, whether it is likely to sustain damage or deterioration;
  • if practicable, label the asbestos. If unsure whether there is asbestos present, or if areas are inaccessible, deem that these areas DO contain asbestos, or arrange for analysis of a sample;
  • record this information, including the date of each identification of the asbestos, in a register, which must be kept current and in any case reviewed every 5 years;
  • provide a copy of the register to:
    • any employer/self-employed person whose business is located at the workplace; and
    • an asbestos license holder engaged to do asbestos removal work; and
    • a person who is required to provide access to others who requests it; and
    • if requested, to an employer/self-employed person who proposes to occupy the workplace.
  • provide access to the register to:
    • any person working at the workplace who may have been exposed to asbestos fibres

Control of risk and review of risk control measures

Persons who manage or control workplaces must:

  • ensure that any risk from asbestos is eliminated, so far as is practicable, by removing the asbestos-containing material. If this is not reasonably practicable, then the material must be enclosed. If there is still a risk then the material must be sealed.
  • review and, if necessary, revise the measures taken to control the risk:
    • before any changes to the workplace, building, plant, etc or a system of work that may disturb the asbestos; or
    • after any incident notifiable under Part 5 of the Act; or
    • or if for any other reason the risk control measures do not adequately control the risks.

Duties of employer

There are many things that an employer is required to do in order to ensure that workers' health is not put at risk from exposure to asbestos.

Identification of asbestos

 The employer must:

  • obtain copy of the asbestos register from the person who manages or controls the workplace; and
  • identify all asbestos, including asbestos-containing material, that is under the management or control of the employer. If unsure whether there is asbestos present, or if areas are inaccessible, deem that these areas DO contain asbestos, or arrange for analysis of a sample;
  • in relation to all asbestos identified, the employer must determine: the type of asbestos/asbestos-containing material; its likely source; whether it is friable or non-friable; its condition, whether it is likely to sustain damage or deterioration; and any activities likely to be carried out at the workplace likely to damage or disturb any asbestos in the workplace;
  • ensure that the presence and location of the asbestos are clearly indicated and if practicable, labelled

Information about the risks

If the employer identifies that a risk associated with fixed or installed asbestos may occur as the result of activities of the employer, the employer must inform the person who manages or controls that workplace.

Employer's asbestos register

The employer must record in an employer's register the results of any identification of asbestos (see above). The register must:

  • contain all the information about the identified asbestos; details of inaccessible areas; the date of the identification; a copy of the register done by the person with control and management of the workplace; and information on activities that may give rise to a risk.
  • be revised to keep it current
  • include any changes in the condition of the asbestos and any removal, enclosure or sealing
  • be reviewed and, if necessary, revised if an OHS rep requests it and in any case, at least every five years
  • be accessible to any employee
  • be provided to: the OHS rep of an affected DWG; an licensed asbestos removalist engaged to do removal work; and a person who is required to provide access to others who requests it.

Control of risk

The employer, with respect to asbestos of which the employer has management and control, must, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • eliminate any risk associated with asbestos by removing the asbestos-containing material (see Division 7 - Removal of Asbestos) As well as consulting with the OHS rep and any affected employees (as per the Act), an employer must, before any asbestos removal work commences, also inform employees in the immediate and adjacent areas of the workplace of the proposed removal work.
  • if this is not reasonably practicable, reducing the risk according to the preferred order of risk control (first enclosing, then sealing the asbestos);
  • review and, if necessary, revise the measures taken to control the risk:
    • before any changes to the workplace, building, plant, etc or a system of work that may disturb the asbestos; or
    • after any incident notifiable under Part 5 of the Act; or
    • or if for any other reason the risk control measures do not adequately control the risks; or
    • after receiving a request from an OHS rep (on reasonable grounds).

Division 6 - Demolition and refurbishment where asbestos is present

Persons who manage or control workplaces have duties if there is to be any demolition or refurbishment of a workplace. These include:

  • a review of their and the employer's asbestos registers;
  • further identification of possible asbestos;
  • identification and removal of asbestos before demolition and refurbishment;
  • set requirements for removal work (only by a licenced removalist UNLESS it is a removal permitted under 'Limited removal without a licence'); and
  • procedures in an "emergency". WorkSafe must be notified emergency situations.

Division 7 - Removal of asbestos

This division applies to removal work (including in a domestic premise that becomes a workplace), but NOT to those activities covered in Division 8.

Limited removal without licence permitted

This regulation allows small scale removal work by employers or self-employed persons to be undertaken without a licence being issued. The conditions under which this is allowed are:

  1. the asbestos-containing material is non-friable; and
  2. the area to be removed is less than 10 square metres in total; and
  3. the total time over which the removal work is performed in any period of 7 days does not exceed 1 hour.

Other duties in this subdivision applying to an employer and/or self-employed person when undertaking unlicensed removal work:

  • Training: must make and retain a record of any training of each person engaged in the work;
  • if self-employed must be informed, instructed and trained so that others are not exposed to risks from the removal work. The self-employed person must make a record of his/her training and retain it;
  • Register: must, before any unlicensed removal work, obtain a copy of the asbestos register/employer's asbestos register UNLESS the removal work is to be performed at domestic premises;
  • Notify: provide information about the proposed work and notify employers in the immediate and adjacent areas, who must in turn inform employees in the immediate and adjacent areas;
  • PPE: must provide appropriate and properly fitted personal protective clothing and respiratory protective equipment to those performing the work;
  • Signs: must use appropriate signs to indicate the area where the work is being performed;
  • Decontamination: must provide whatever facilities are necessary for the decontamination of the work area, tools and equipment and for personal decontamination. Equipment must be decontaminated before it is removed from the area or placed in a sealed container;
  • Elimination of fibres: must ensure that the removal work is performed in a manner that eliminates the release of airborne fibres;
  • Waste: must ensure that asbestos waste is contained, the exterior of the container decontaminted, and disposed of as soon as practicable to an EPA licensed disposal site;
  • Laundering: must provide for the proper laundering of any clothing that is not disposed of;
  • Medical examinations:
    • must arrange for appropriate medical examinations for each employee if there is a risk of exposure to airborne asbestos fibres above one half of the exposure standard.
    • must notify WorkSafe of the name/contact details of the medical examiner.
    • must retain summary of results for 30 years

Licensed Removal Work

Only removalists (and their employees) licensed by WorkSafe, are permitted to remove asbestos from workplaces (apart from Limited removal - see above).  There are two types of licences: 

  1. Class A: licensed to removed both friable and non-friable asbestos and asbestos containing material
  2. Class B: licensed to remove non-friable asbestos only (and clean up after their own job)

The regulations specify a number of duties in relation to licenced removalists. These include duties in relation to:

  • their employees - providing information, training, medical examinations, protective clothing and equipment, decontamination facilities, etc;
  • an asbestos control plan - which must be made available to the employees and their OHS reps, any employer, and anyone doing work at the workplace;
  • monitoring the airborne asbestos fibres;
  • disposal of asbestos;
  • notifying the Authority of all removal work 5 days prior to the job commencing for removal jobs involving removal of more than 10 square metres, 24 hours if less than this (except in an "unexpected situation")

There are additional duties when the removal involves friable asbestos, including specific measures to control risk, carrying out air-monitoring before commencing the removal work and making the results available to employees at the workplace, and more.

WorkSafe issues licences to companies wishing to undertake asbestos removal work. The Victorian Trades Hall Council has a list of preferred asbestos removalists.

Any person who commissions removal work requiring a licence must:

  • inform all employers in the immediate and adjacent areas of the proposed work prior to it commencing;
  • if the asbestos is friable, arrange for paraoccupational air monitoring before, during and at completion of removal - and make the results accessible to the OHS rep and employees of any affected DWG;
  • also at the completion of the removal work:
    • organise a visual inspection by an independent and qualified person to verify there is no visible asbestos in the area
    • obtain a clearance certificate to state that there is no visible asbestos residue and, if applicable, that the airborne asbestos fibre level is less than 0.01 f/ml

Division 8 - Activities involving asbestos

This division applies to a number of activities involving asbestos that are carried out in a workplace, and places duties on the employer.  The activities are:

  1. the handling, including for removal or transport for disposal, of asbestos-containing aircraft and automotive components;
  2. the laundering of asbestos contaminated clothing;
  3. research involving asbestos;
  4. sampling or analysis involving suspected asbestos;
  5. the transport of asbestos waste for disposal;
  6. working at a site licensed by the Environment Protection Authority to accept asbestos waste;
  7. the enclosing or sealing of asbestos;
  8. hand drilling and cutting of asbestos-containing material;
  9. maintenance of dust extraction equipment, contaminated with asbestos;
  10. processing of construction and demolition material in accordance with the method determined by the Authority;
  11. any other activity (other than asbestos removal work under Division 7) that is likely to produce airborne asbestos fibres in excess of one half of the asbestos exposure standard; 
  12. any other activity determined by the Authority for the purposes of this Division.

An employer must:

  • identify whether an asbestos-related activity is being carried out
  • if there is uncertainty, then assume that asbestos is present or arrange for a sample to be taken
  • obtain a copy of the asbestos register
  • ensure that asbestos-related activities are carried out in a manner that eliminates so far as is reasonably practicable the release of airborne asbestos fibres
  • ensure that any risk associated with the activity is eliminated, or if not reasonably practicable, reduced by isolation or using engineering controls, or a combination of these
  • if a risk still remains, used administrative controls to reduce the risk
  • if a risk still remains, provide properly fitted personal protective clothing and equipment
  • review and, if necessary, revise the measures taken to control the risk:
    • before an alteration is made to the systems of work related to the activity that is likely to increase the risk to health or safety; or
    • after any incident notifiable under Part 5 of the Act; or
    • or if for any other reason the risk control measures do not adequately control the risks; or
    • after receiving a request from an OHS rep (on reasonable grounds)
  • separate and sign the work area and keep it clean
  • arrange for medical examinations if there is a risk of exposure to airborne asbestos fibres above one half of the asbestos exposure standard
  • ensure that atmospheric monitoring is provided if there is uncertainty
  • provide decontamination facilities
  • contain and dispose of waste
  • launder clothing
  • provide information to job applicants
  • provide training and keep a record

 See also:

Last amended June 2015