About asbestos

A close up of a corrugated asbestos cement fence with asbestos cement capping
Asbestos Cement Fence

The role of the Department of Health is to ensure the proper management of potential public health risks from exposure to asbestos.  Local Government Environmental Health Officers are the first contact for community concerns.

Other government agencies have a role in controlling asbestos in a range of situations.  For example:

  • asbestos in the workplace is managed by the Department of Commerce (WorkSafe)
  • asbestos transport, disposal and soil contamination is regulated by the Department of Environment Regulation
  • asbestos in mining is controlled by the Department of Mines and Petroleum

The Department of Health has produced asbestos regulators brochure (PDF 901KB) that provides a more detailed list of agencies with their roles and contact details to find out who to call for a particular issue.

Public health legislation

The Department of Health administers the Health (Asbestos) Regulations 1992 (HAR) (external site) which are enforced by local government enforcement agencies and authorised officers. 

It is important that you are aware of the requirements of the regulations before working with asbestos.

Draft legislation including a Draft Code of Practice have been prepared but finalisation and promulgation awaits a further stage of the implementation of the Public Health Act 2016.

As part of the Department of Health review a Survey of local government and other regulators experience with asbestos incidents in the public sector (PDF 496KB) was completed.

Residential asbestos products

Asbestos was included in many common products used in homes built before 1990.  These products containing asbestos can become a public health risk if they are damaged or deteriorate in a way that releases the asbestos fibres. It is important that these products can be identified in the home so that appropriate precautions can be taken to reduce exposure risks. 

Residents need to:

  • Find out if they have any asbestos containing products in their home
  • Know the precautions required to work safely with asbestos

The Department of Health has released the following publications to assist in the identification and management of asbestos products.

The national enHealth Council has published guidance for householders:

Health risks

In most cases the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease from exposure to asbestos products in the community is very low.  However, in situations where asbestos fibres can be released it is important to take additional safety precautions. The attached publication provides further explanation as to what are the risks from exposure to asbestos in the situations described above:

Fire and Natural Disasters

Asbestos in structures may be disturbed or damaged by fire or natural disasters such as floods and cyclones. The resulting public risks and their management may differ from more common means of asbestos contamination. Although general asbestos regulatory guidance should still apply where practical, it may be necessary to vary management procedures due to the emergency nature of some of these unusual events.

The related link on Fire Damaged Asbestos and the following documents provide some of this specialised guidance in regard to asbestos.

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Public Health

For further information contact your local government or the Environmental Health Directorate