The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations) contain specific duties relating to identifying the presence of asbestos in workplaces and indicating its location.
Exposure to asbestos fibres may cause diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. Read more about asbestos in Further information.
An employer, self-employed or person who has management or control of a workplace where asbestos is present must, so far as is reasonably practicable, clearly identify all asbestos that is under their management or control.
This includes identifying the location of asbestos, likely source of asbestos and information relating to the asbestos containing material (ACM).
ACM may be found in, or assumed to be in:
- structures, including tunnels and access pits
- plant, including boilers with asbestos containing insulation and pipelines with asbestos containing gaskets
- other areas of the workplace, including soil, materials and inaccessible areas likely to contain asbestos.
If there is reasonable uncertainty as to whether asbestos is present, or if there are inaccessible areas that are likely to contain asbestos, the person who manages or controls the workplace must assume that asbestos is present.
Once identified, the location of asbestos, or asbestos assumed or likely to be present, must be correctly recorded in the asbestos register.
Labelling asbestos identified in the workplace
Labelling must be used to show the presence of asbestos in each recorded location so far as it is reasonably practicable.
Labels should be durable. Ensure labels are checked and kept in good condition.
Labelling methods may vary depending on the type of asbestos present in the workplace.
Direct labelling on asbestos containing materials that are readily accessible and in locations that do not disturb the asbestos is the most effective way to identify the presence and location of asbestos (Figures 1 and 2).
Figure 1: Label directly on asbestos containing material.
Figure 2: Label with text 'Warning Contains Asbestos. Breathing asbestos dust is dangerous to health. Follow safety instructions.'
This method raises awareness of the presence and location of asbestos. For example, if maintenance work is required on or near the asbestos, it is clear that the item contains asbestos and appropriate precautions must be taken to avoid exposure.
Where direct labelling is not possible, labels should be placed as close as possible to the asbestos containing item, for example:
- A room with asbestos containing vinyl floor tiles may have labels with an arrow pointing down placed on the skirting boards on all four walls.
- A ceiling space that has low level of asbestos contaminated dust may have a label placed at the access hatch (Figure 3)
- An asbestos cement roof may have labels placed at access points to the roof (Figure 4).
Figure 3: Label alerting that ceiling space contains asbestos
Figure 4: Label at roof access point alerting that the roofing material contains asbestos
Colour coded labelling
Colour coded labelling may be used to identify the presence and location of asbestos. This method is less effective than direct labelling because it requires added communication with employees and contractors about the presence and meaning of the coloured labels and the actions required.
A label directly on or next to identified asbestos is the most effective. In situations where a label cannot be placed directly on or next to identified asbestos, place a sign at entrance points to rooms or buildings where asbestos is present.
Placing signs at the entrances of buildings and rooms to identify the presence of asbestos is less effective than direct labelling.
If signs are used, they should be placed at every entrance of the building.
The signs should state that before any work is undertaken, the asbestos register should be referred to for the specific location and condition of asbestos (Figure 5).
Work in asbestos affected areas should only proceed after the register has been reviewed and appropriate controls applied.
Where asbestos containing remains or asbestos-contaminated soil is present in a workplace, a system to show the presence and location of the asbestos is required. This can be achieved, if reasonably practicable, by installing warning signs in combination with measures to isolate and secure the affected area to prevent anyone from accidentally disturbing the asbestos.
Figure 5: Label placed at every entrance to a building that contains asbestos
Employers must provide employees and contractors with information and instructions necessary to do their job in a way that is safe and without risk to their health.
Employers should ensure that employees and contractors are aware of the labelling methods in use that alert the presence and location of asbestos in the workplace.
Induction for employees and contractors should include an asbestos management plan that outlines the labelling system. The plan will include the type of labels and their locations and maintenance. Refresher training should be provided on the labelling methods and the asbestos management plan as needed. View Managing asbestos in workplaces: A step-by-step guide in Related information.