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close this bookAsbestos Overview and Handling Recommendations (GTZ, 1996)
close this folderPart IV Country analysis
close this folder4 Country profiles
View the document4.1 Australia
View the document4.2 Chile
View the document4.3 Republic of China
View the document4.4 India
View the document4.5 Israel
View the document4.6 South Africa
View the document4.7 Tunisia
View the document4.8 USA

4.1 Australia

4.1.1 General overview

As of 1983 Asbestos is no longer mined in Australia, and currently no Asbestos containing products are manufactured in this country. Therefore, depending on their lifetimes, the Asbestos products have been or are being eliminated from their application areas by substitutes.

4.1.2 Legislation

Australia has extensive legal norms controlling the production, processing and abatement of Asbestos containing materials. The corresponding requirements have meanwhile led to the ceasing of Asbestos mining and Asbestos product manufacturing in Australia. Consequently, these norms are currently applied primarily to abatement and supervisory measures. A general Asbestos prohibition exists only for the use of crocidolite at the workplace, however.

The Workplace Health & Safety Regulations (1990) can be considered. Guidelines and limit values in handling Asbestos containing material are also summarized in the Code of Practice of the National Occupational Health & Safety Commission. These data were determined by the National Consultative Committee on Occupational Health & Safety (NCCOHS), which was established in 1983.

The Workplace Health & Safety Authority at provincial level is responsible for the authority supervision of the specifications. Workplace measurements and air measurements must be performed by the respective owner.

The import of Asbestos fibers in Australia is forbidden, and there is mandatory abatement for existing materials which can release Asbestos. Asbestos containing material must be specially declared and may only be transported in closed containers. The use of Asbestos is completely forbidden for some applications, as in the case of sprayed Asbestos, for example.

In the guidelines of the Code of Practice, air limits at the workplace during the mining and processing of Asbestos are set at I fiber/ml (chrysotile) and 0.1 fiber/ml (crocidolite, amosite or other Asbestos types as well as mixtures or these). The specification is for the average value over 4 h measured with the membrane filter method. In working with Asbestos, particular safety measures must also be observed (moistening measures, respiratory protection, special clothing, clothes changing rooms, etc.). Furthermore, a medical exam is necessary no later than 90 days after assuming the work and subsequently at least every 3 years and again no later than 30 days after leaving the position. No smoking is allowed at the workplace. Lastly, regular training at the workplace is performed.

There are also regulations on the disposal and abatement of Asbestos containing materials. Abatement measures may only be performed by officially supervised companies, which require a so-called Class 5 license. For occupational safety, the previously mentioned regulations apply. Asbestos may not be broken off during abatement measures and must be packaged in special sacks. The disposal must be performed at special landfills.

With regard to Asbestos fibers in drinking water, there are currently no legal regulations. Investigations have shown, however, that fiber concentrations in the range of 105 bis 109 fibers per liter drinking water were present.

The Australian federal laws were implemented into corresponding legal norms at the provincial level, which are presented in Table 21.

Table 21: Asbestos - Law / Ordinances / Guidelines of Australian Provinces

Laws, Ordinances, Guidelines

Year enacted

New South Wales (NSW)

- NSW Occupational Health and Welfare Act


- NSW Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations (Ordinances for the industrial area)


- NSW Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations (Ordinances for the construction fields)


- NSW Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos


- Victoria Government - Labor & Industry Regulation (Ordinances for the Asbestos processing industries)


- Statutory Rule No. 435


- Statutory Rule No. 201


- Victorian Asbestos Removal Industry Consultative Committees (Different norms for Asbestos abatement of buildings and workplaces)


- Queensland Workplace Health & Safety Act and Regulations

Western Australia (WA)

- WA Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations


South Australia (SA)

- SA Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act/Regulations (Ordinances/laws for the industrial area)


- SA Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations (Ordinances for the construction fields)

- Code of Practice for Safe Removal of Asbestos


- Department of Labour and Industry, Tasmania - Safety Guide Toxic/Dangerous Substances No. s 1, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15 -

Northern Territory

- Construction Safety Act


- Construction Safety Rules, Division 3, "Spraying and Handling of Asbestos".

Australian Capital Territory

- Office of Australian Capital Territory - "Asbestos Removal Manual"

Source: own compilation

4.1.3 Research and development

Research projects in Australia refer primarily to the control of Asbestos release from existing installations. These research programs are mainly performed by scientific institutes, such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Hygiene or the CSIRO in Melbourne.

Currently, for instance, there are on-going research projects on the sealing of Asbestos products (CSIRO) or the behavior of Asbestos fibers in the lungs (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Hygiene).

Furthermore, there are research programs in the area of development of substitutes, such as the research project on silicon carbide -Whiskers (CSIRO) or new brake linings (Australian Railways).

4.1.4 Substitutes

In Australia Asbestos containing products have been replaced by substitutes to a great extent. These are available largely from national production, and examples are listed in the following table.

Table 22: Substitutes for Asbestos Fiber Products in Australia


Asbestos Fiber - Substitutes



woven glass fibers

$ 5/m², for 1.8 kg/m² woven textile

Paper products

Kevlar/graphite fibers


Insulation material

glass fiber- (woven textile)

$ 4 50/m² (thickness 50mm)

Cement products

cellulose/glass fiber cement

$ 2300/m³



$ 14/m²

Boards/Tiles, etc.


$ 20/m²

Brake lining

steel/copper wool strengthened phenolic resin


Source: own compilation

The technical properties and weather resistance of these substitutes are generally good. However, the processing ability is more difficult in the case of paper products, insulation materials and brake linings.

Furthermore, a number of Asbestos substitutes are in use which are fiber-free. Some of these products are manufactured within the country. Examples are listed in Table 23.

Table 23: Fiber-free Substitutes for Asbestos Products in Australia


Fiber-free Substitutes

Price (approx. value)

Cardboard products


Import goods

Insulation material

expanded Polystyrene



galvanized steel sheet

$ 18/m² (0.53mm)

Boards/Tiles, etc.

steel sheets

$ 10/m²

clay sheets

$ 17/m²

cement sheets

$ 14/m²

Brake linings

cast iron

$ 3-51kg

Source: own compilation

The technical properties, as well as the weather resistance of these substitutes are satisfactory to good. The processing ability is difficult in the case of teflon for cardboard products.

In the typical application areas of Asbestos cements, such as water main pipes or roof coverings, cement strengthened with cellulose fibers is primarily used today. In special cases of application, alkali-resistant glass fibers also come into use. For water mains the following are also applied: (malleable-) cast iron, galvanized steel, PVC and HDPE. For roof coverings, in addition to cement and clay panels (tiles), steel panels or steel pressed panels are applied. Cement sheets are impregnated with bitumen or acrylate protective coatings to make them water-tight. All of these materials are manufactured in Australia.

The technical suitability of these materials is determined on the basis of special Australian norms. Generally, products made of cement fibers are classified somewhat lower in their tensile strength and impact resistance compared to Asbestos cement. Due to climatic conditions, the low UV-resistance of plastics or glass fiber-strengthened plastics must also be considered.

4.1.5 Risk Philosophy

Asbestos is classified in Australia as a material with a high hazard potential. This is reflected in the relevant legislation on Asbestos. In the future, a general Asbestos prohibition is expected.