Asbestos is a fibrous mineral which was widely used in building materials and other products in WA from 1921 to 1987.  The use of asbestos was phased out in building products during the 1980’s, and completely banned in 2003.  Asbestos was added to building products to increase their strength, durability, fire resistance and insulation properties.

Where is asbestos found?

Properties built before 1987 are likely to have building materials containing asbestos (Asbestos Containing Material or ACM).  Asbestos was commonly mixed in cement or woven into fabric and used for insulation purposes. The most common product used in residential properties was asbestos cement, which contained 10-15% asbestos. 

Common places where asbestos can be found include:

  • cement roofs, eaves and fencing
  • downpipes and gutters
  • cement wall sheeting and cladding
  • paper backing material on sheet linoleum
  • backing panels in meter boxes
  • textured paints – especially in wet areas
  • vinyl floor tiles
  • thermal insulation boards around fireplaces
  • gaskets and rope door seal in wood stoves
  • carpet underlay

These products can pose little risk to health when they are in good condition and undisturbed.  Homeowners, however, must take precautions when removing these products, renovating or carrying out maintenance in areas where asbestos is present.

Health Risks

In most cases the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease from exposure to asbestos products in the community is very low.  Asbestos only poses a risk to health when the asbestos fibres are inhaled.  When asbestos fibres are breathed in, they may remain deep within the lungs. They can lodge in lung tissue and cause inflammation, scarring and some more serious asbestos related diseases. 

Undisturbed ACM in good condition do not pose a health risk because the asbestos fibres are bound together in a solid cement.  However, if the ACM is damaged, crumbing or disturbed by breaking, cutting, drilling or sandling, fibres will be released into the atmosphere. 

Who can remove asbestos?

If you are considering engaging a contractor to remove your ACM and where the total area to be removed exceeds 10m², you are required to ensure that the contractor holds an appropriate WorkSafe Asbestos Removal Licence.  For more details or to confirm if your contractor holds an appropriate licence, visit:

Although encouraged, the removal of amounts less than 10m² of ACM, is not required to be undertaken by a licensed professional, however, the following must be adhered to:

  • Asbestos cement sheets should be kept wet with water during removal or sprayed with a PVA (poly vinyl acetate) solution.
  • Use only non-powered hand tools or portable power tools incorporating dust suppression or dust extraction attachments designed to collect asbestos fibres.
  • Care must be taken when removing asbestos cement products to ensure minimal breakage. Roofing materials are to be lowered to the ground, not dropped.
  • Removed sheets are to be stacked on polythene sheeting, then wrapped and sealed into bundles for disposal, or placed directly into disposal bins that have been lined with polythene sheeting and sealed for disposal.
  • Sheets must not be left lying about where they may be further broken or crushed.
  • When stacking removed sheets care must be taken not to skid one sheet over another, as this will result in the release of fibres.
  • Roof gutters must be cleaned or sealed prior to their removal.
  • Any visible asbestos cement residue remaining in the roof space or within the removal area is to be cleaned up using an approved vacuum cleaner if necessary.

Demolition Sites

In addition to the above requirements, those working on demolition sites shall comply with the following details.

  • Where the total area to be removed exceeds 10m², a contractor holding an appropriate WorkSafe Asbestos Licence is required to carry out the works
  • The demolition site should have signs and a barrier erected to warn of the danger and prevent unauthorised people entering
  • All people in the asbestos removal area should wear disposable coveralls and either a P1 or P2 disposable mask that complies with Australian Standard 1716:1994
  • All used disposable coveralls and masks are to be placed with other asbestos waste and wrapped and disposed of in accordance with legislative requirements.

Asbestos Fences

ACM products such as fences and roof sheeting are anywhere between 25 and 80 years old.  Over the years, these structures have been subjected to weathering from rain, wind, sun and hail, physical damage associated from the growth of vegetation, collisions by vehicles or other equipment, and uneven soil pressure causing fences to lean crack or break.  It is important to monitor the condition of your ACM fence on a regular basis. Where the ACM is in poor condition, inspection of the fence should be undertaken more frequently. As part of the monitoring, it is recommended that the following are carried out as required.

Repair / maintenance

  • Seal any broken edges on the fence with exterior grade PVA glue or paint after first gently wetting with a fine water spray to reduce the release of asbestos dust.
  • Repair any small holes in the fence with patching material, again after wetting down. One way of doing this may be to stick an all-weather industrial strength adhesive tape over the hole and if necessary, painting over it to match the surrounding area.
  • For cracks, seal the edges and then fill the gap with an outdoor silicone product.
  • Replace the ACM fence capping with new metal capping or covering it over with new capping without damaging the ACM fencing panels.
  • For larger holes, it may be possible to place o glue (do not drill and bolt) a protective board over the hole.
  • If there are a number of damaged panels, it would be reasonable to replace the whole fence. Never re-use ACM panels.
  • Hand-pick any ACM fence fragments and place them in double bagged plastic, labelled with an asbestos warning.
  • Remove any vegetation that may be abrading or threatening to break fence panels.


Depending on the condition of the ACM panels, painting the fence with two coats of a long-lasting outdoor paint, may be a good control measure in the interim until the removal of the fence is undertaken.   A high-volume, low pressure spray gun is a safe and efficient way of doing this.  

A high-pressure sprayer must not be used as it can cause asbestos fibres to be released from the cement matrix. If brushes or rollers are used, then the surface should be wetted first.  Tools that come into direct contact with the ACM structure such as paint brushes and rollers, must be disposed of as ACM waste afterwards.

Removing an ACM Cement Fence

Should you decide to remove your ACM cement fence the minimum proper procedures include, but may not be restricted to:

  • Obtaining the consent of the adjoining neighbours;
  • Wearing respirator, gloves and overalls;
  • Excluding uninvolved people from the area;
  • Wetting down the fence progressively as it is removed;
  • The fence being disassembled with minimal damage, no power tools, and the entire panels removed from the soil;
  • The removed sheets being wrapped in polythene sheeting, or bagged immediately within two layers of heavy-duty plastic that is clearly labelled and marked “CAUTION ASBESTOS” at least 5cm high:
  • No fence fragments or debris being left at site after the removal; and
  • The wrapped / bagged material being disposed of as soon as practical at an approved asbestos waste disposal facility. The nearest asbestos waste disposal facility is the East Metropolitan Regional Council Facility situated on Toodyay Road, Gidgegannup.

Leaning Fences

For heavily leaning fences, engineering solutions are not advisable except for interim stabilisation to prevent collapse or further damage. These structures should be removed and replaced. If the maintenance or removal involves considerable disturbance to the ACM fence or it is in a poor condition, (including the ACM capping) the use of an asbestos professional or asbestos removalist is strongly recommended.

Disposing Asbestos

Within the Metropolitan area, asbestos cement waste must be disposed of in accordance with the requirements of the Environmental Protection (Controlled Waste) Regulations 2004 as detailed below.

  • Material containing asbestos must be separated from all other waste.
  • Wrapped in plastic to prevent asbestos fibres entering the atmosphere during transportation by road.
  • Clearly labelled and marked “CAUTION ASBESTOS” at least 5cm high.
  • A person who takes material containing asbestos to a Disposal Site MUST inform the person who operates or controls that facility that the material is, or contains asbestos
  • Red Hill Waste Management Facility accept asbestos subject to it being correctly wrapped. For information regarding fees associated with the asbestos burial, please phone Red Hill on 9574 6235.

Prohibitions and Penalties

The use of high-pressure equipment to clean materials that contain asbestos is strictly prohibited.  This includes the use of compressed air or high-pressure water jets.

It is an offence to sell, swap, give away or supply second hand asbestos cement sheeting.

Failure to comply with any of the requirements Health (Asbestos) Regulations 1992 can result in a fine of up to $5000. Penalties can be considerably greater if an offence is committed under the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (such as pollution caused from the illegal disposal of controlled waste).

Asbestos Support

Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia

Phone: 1800 646 690 (national toll free) or 9344 4077

Australian Asbestos Network

The Cancer Council helpline provides information and support for people affected by cancer, health professionals and the community.  Phone: 13 11 20 for the cost of a local call.

Asbestos Regulators

The following information can help direct your inquiry to the appropriate agency.


Relevant Area



Regulates and audits all aspects of asbestos in workplaces, licenses asbestos removalists and conducts periodic audits of licensed persons.

Department of Education

Manages asbestos issues in school buildings and other facilities under the control of the Department. 

Housing Authority

Manages asbestos issues associated with its properties.

Department of Finance – Building Management and Works

Leads the planning and delivery of new government buildings, such as schools, hospitals, prisons, courts and police stations.

Department of Water and Environmental Regulation

Regulates and provides advice on the safe transport and disposal of asbestos materials.

Department of Health


Regulates and provides advice on the safe handling of asbestos materials in both the public and residential sectors.  Guidance is also provided on the management of asbestos contaminated soil.


Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety

Regulates safe asbestos practices in the resources industry.   

Local Government


The Town of Bassendean enforces the Department of Health asbestos regulatory requirements and provide advice on local asbestos issues.  Please refer to the Asbestos Information Sheet for more advice regarding asbestos and the Asbestos Cement Fencing Information Sheet.