Asbestos is the generic term for a number of fibrous silicate minerals. There are two major groups of asbestos:
- the serpentine group contains chrysotile, commonly known as white asbestos
- the amphibole group contains amosite (brown asbestos) and crocidolite (blue asbestos), as well as some other less common types, such as tremolite, actinolite and anthophyllite.
Asbestos was commonly mixed with cement to form products such as fibro sheets, pipes and gutters and under floor packing. It was also woven into fabric and used for pipe lagging, boiler insulation and loose roof insulation.
The use of asbestos has been banned in Australia since 31 December 2003.
The Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 uses the following definitions for asbestos:
- airborne asbestos - any fibres of asbestos small enough to be made airborne
- asbestos containing material (ACM) - any material or thing that contains asbestos as part of its design
- asbestos contaminated dust or debris (ACD) - dust or debris that has settled within a workplace and is (or assumed to be) contaminated with asbestos
- competent person - a person who has acquired, through training, qualification or experience, the knowledge and skills to carry out an asbestos related task
- competent person for a clearance inspection - a person who has acquired through training or experience the knowledge and skills of relevant asbestos removal industry practice and holds:
- a certification in relation to the specified VET course for asbestos assessor work, or
- a tertiary qualification in OHS, occupational hygiene, science, building, construction or environmental health
- friable asbestos – any asbestos material in a powder form or can be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to a powder by hand pressure when dry. Examples include: pipe lagging, limpet and fire door cores.
- in situ asbestos - asbestos or ACM fixed or installed in a structure, equipment or plant but does not include naturally occurring asbestos
- naturally occurring asbestos (NOA) - the natural geological occurrence of asbestos minerals found in association with geological deposits including rock, sediment or soil
- non friable asbestos - material containing asbestos that is not friable asbestos, including material containing asbestos fibres reinforced with a bonding compound such as, asbestos cement (fibro), brakes and vinyl floor tiles
- respirable asbestos - an asbestos fibre that:
- is less than 3 microns (µm) wide
- is more than 5 microns (µm) long
- has a length to width ratio of more than 3:1.
Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities (HACA)
The NSW Ombudsman released a report into the level of coordination between intergovernmental agencies in relation to asbestos issues titled: Responding to the asbestos problem: The need for significant reform in NSW.
In response, the NSW Government established a central coordination body – the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities (HACA) - to improve the management, monitoring and response to asbestos issues in NSW by developing coordinated prevention programs. These programs include a state wide plan for asbestos, a model asbestos policy for local councils and a comprehensive public awareness campaign to promote the safe handling of asbestos and help prevent the risk of exposure to asbestos related diseases in the NSW community.
Useful resources, networks and links
There are a wide range of asbestos resources, support networks and links available on this website - including the asbestos awareness.com.au website - to assist in the safe management and monitoring of asbestos for:
- home and property owners
Call 13 10 50 for more information about asbestos.