Asbestos was commonly used in building materials prior to 1987. Asbestos fibres can be present in a number of products including:
- Roofing, shingles and siding
- Exterior wall cladding
- Thermal boards around fireplaces
- Gaskets in wood stoves
- Textured paints
- Backing material in flooring/tiles
- Water or flue pipes
- Insulation of pipes/heaters
Asbestos is always present in the air we breathe, so we are all exposed to a low level every day, however, this is highly unlikely to lead to asbestos-related disease. Generally, undisturbed asbestos cement products do not pose a health risk, as the fibres are bound together in a solid cement matrix, such as in asbestos fences. However, if the material is damaged or disturbed, fibres may be released into the air. Asbestos can pose a serious health risk if not removed safely.
For further information about disease risk refer to the Department of Health website.
It is impossible to confirm asbestos with the naked eye, as the fibres present are microscopic. There are several fencing products that look like asbestos, but there are a few factors to consider which will help determine the likelihood the product is asbestos.
If a fence is cement-like and the age is pre-1990 then it is likely to be asbestos. The typical characteristic features of corrugated asbestos fences are:
- Brand name of “Super Six” (non-asbestos is commonly named “Hardifence” and looks more like compacted sheets of cardboard).
- Usually seven ridges per one metre wide panel (non-asbestos usually have five ridges).
- Use of diamond shaped metal fasteners (non-asbestos normally have none).
- Having a hessian (crosshatch-like) surface pattern (non-asbestos vertical linear dimple pattern).
- Having asbestos cement capping (non-asbestos have metal capping however asbestos capping often may be missing or been replaced by metal capping).
For further information on identification refer to the Department of Health website and guidance notes.
All asbestos cement products can be removed safely without causing a risk to the public or workers provided safe work procedures are followed.
Persons removing asbestos cement products must comply with the Health (Asbestos) Regulations 1992, the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 and Environmental Protection (Controlled Waste) Regulations 2004. Persons removing more than 10m2 of bonded asbestos are required to hold an asbestos license, issued by the Department of Commerce (WorkSafe WA).
Refer to the Department of Health website for further information.
As of 24 January 2017, the Health (Asbestos) Regulations 1992 were amended to include infringement penalties to enable local government better enforcement provisions for asbestos removal offences. A Code of Practice has been drafted, but will not be implemented until a further stage of the Public Health Act 2016 is introduced.
An infringement of $2,000 can be issued for anyone who is found storing, breaking, damaging, cutting, maintaining, repairing, removing, moving, or disposing of, or using any material containing asbestos without taking reasonable measures to prevent asbestos fibres entering the atmosphere.
For frequently asked questions on the amendments, refer to the Department of Health website.
A list of prescribed offences and infringement amounts can be found on the Department of Health website.
Within the metropolitan area, asbestos cement waste must be disposed of in accordance with the requirements of the Environmental Protection (Controlled Waste) Regulations 2004. Material containing asbestos must be:
- Separated from all other waste.
- Wrapped in heavy duty plastic to prevent asbestos fibres entering the atmosphere during transportation by road.
- Clearly labelled and marked 'CAUTION ASBESTOS'.
All asbestos material must be disposed of at a landfill or waste disposal site licensed by the Department of Environment Regulation. The nearest facilities to accept asbestos waste area:
Please refer to the Department of Commerce website to find a licensed removalist.