Safety and first aid


Asbestos fencing
Asbestos can be found in products around the home such as cement fencing.
  • Asbestos was commonly used in building materials for strength, fire resistance and insulation.
  • Asbestos is a cancer and lung disease hazard.
  • Manufacturing of all asbestos cement products ceased in 1987.
  • Prevent exposure to asbestos fibres byleaving asbestos products undisturbed.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that was widely mined and used in the manufacture of building materials and other products. In Australia the use of asbestos was phased out through the 1980s and completely banned in 2003. Asbestos is still present in many older homes across WA. Learn more about asbestos in and around the home.

Asbestos products that are severely damaged (e.g. fire, wind, accidental damage) are more likely to release fibres and to cause contamination of surrounding soils and materials. For asbestos containing materials in poor or crumbling condition, removal work may require additional precautions, for example the need to use a Class A licence removalist, which has also increased associated costs. 

The Department of Health promotes the removal of any damaged, derelict, or unused structures that contain asbestos to prevent public health risks.

If you are buying, renting or selling a pre­1990 house, you can ask that asbestos containing products be assessed as part of the building inspection report (external site).

A person who stores or handles any material containing asbestos without taking reasonable precautions to prevent asbestos fibres entering the air commits an offence.

You cannot sell any asbestos cement products.

Health risks of asbestos

Asbestos can cause a number of diseases, including lung cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining of the lung or abdomen) and asbestosis (stiffening of the lungs).

The risk of developing an asbestos­related disease from exposure to asbestos products in and around the home is extremely small. The risk depends on the total number of fibres inhaled, the length of time of exposure and how often you are exposed. Most people who have developed asbestos­related diseases have had high exposures from working with asbestos and/or asbestos products and not all people who have worked with asbestos developed disease.

Some people have developed an asbestos­related disease after renovating a home containing asbestos. In most of these cases renovations were done prior to the asbestos prohibition and few precautions were taken. For information on the recommended precautions, refer to the information below. Precautions should always be used when removing asbestos products or renovating a house containing asbestos.

All efforts should be made to keep asbestos products in or around your home in good condition, or remove them safely.

There is a National Asbestos Exposure Register (external site) for members of the community who have been.

Types of asbestos

The three main types of commercial asbestos used in WA are:

  • chrysotile (white asbestos)
  • amosite (brown asbestos)
  • crocidolite (blue asbestos).

Asbestos cement products were commonly manufactured in WA from 1921 to 1987. If your asbestos cement products (such as fence or roofing) were installed before the mid-1980s then it is highly likely they contain asbestos and should be treated as such. If products were installed between the mid-1980s and 1990 then it may contain asbestos and may be worth testing before disturbing.

The manufacture, importation and installation of products containing asbestos were being phased out during the 1980s hence asbestos was not used in building materials by the end of that decade.

However, chrysotile continued to exist in a few products, such as brake linings and industrial products, until 2003 when there was a total ban on the manufacture, use, reuse, import, transport, storage or sale of all forms of asbestos.

Asbestos and the law

Asbestos is regulated by a number of agencies, including WorkSafe, Department of Environment Regulation and Department of Health.

Everyone is required to comply with the Health (Asbestos) Regulations 1992 (external site) and avoid activities that can create dust. These Regulations restrict handling of asbestos in and around the home. Under the Regulations you are only allowed to:

  • Supply asbestos to another person for disposal in accordance with environmental regulations (external site)
  • Maintain or undertake basic repair to asbestos cement products. It is best to use a competent tradesperson to do the work.
  • Remove small amounts of asbestos for the purpose of disposal using safety precautions.

The use of high-pressure water or air on asbestos products is an offence and you may be fined or prosecuted.

A person who stores or handles any material containing asbestos without taking reasonable precautions to prevent asbestos fibres entering the air commits an offence.

You cannot sell any asbestos cement products.

Where an authorised officer suspects that a person is creating a risk to the public’s health by the incorrect management, handling and disposal of asbestos-containing materials, they have the powers to issue an infringement notice

Local government Environmental Health services can issue an infringement notice with a penalty of up to $10,000, and if the offence is of a continuing nature, an additional daily penalty of not more than $1,000 may be imposed. Local government authorities can also commence prosecution in a court of law.

A body corporate may be fined up to five times this amount under section 40(5) of the Sentencing Act 1995 (external site). Note  These penalties are likely to increase over the coming years.

Illegally dumped asbestos

It is illegal to dump asbestos anywhere except in a licensed landfill or waste site. If you are caught dumping asbestos, you can be prosecuted. If you find or witness the illegal dumping of asbestos, contact Environmental Health Services at your local government (external site)

More information


Environmental Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

Questions? Ask your local government environmental health services