Asbestos and its Potential for Occupational Health Issues (2016)


This paper provides an overview of the exposure standard adjustment methods for atmospheric contaminants, a selection of legislative approaches in Australia and other countries and examples of the varying outcomes. It then proposes a potential way forward based on national and international consistency.



This paper was compiled to give guidance on the assessment of occupational exposure to asbestos fibre. It is an update of a previous AIOH Position Paper (2008) on this subject. This Paper covers technical aspects and issues associated with asbestos exposure during work activities (i.e. occupational exposures). Issues relating to household and community exposures and how they are approached and handled are beyond the scope of this Paper.

Asbestos is a hazardous material and as such, has the potential to cause harm to human health. Even though asbestos is banned in Australia (and some other countries), there is still a large industry involved in its assessment and removal. In addition, there is a considerable number of workplaces that face occupational exposures in areas such as maintenance work associated with in‐situ asbestos products, waste management, non‐asbestos mining, road building and other earthmoving activities due to the presence of contaminant asbestiform minerals and naturally occurring asbestos (NOA).

Risk to health is via inhalation of ‘respirable’ asbestos fibres only. When asbestos‐containing materials are in good condition and remain undisturbed, they pose no measurable risk to health.

If NOA or asbestos contamination in soil is suspected it is important that asbestos identification analysis and a risk assessment is conducted. The identification and assessment of asbestos containing material (ACM), soils contaminated with asbestos material and NOA should be carried out by a competent person (refer to Competent Person definition above).

Removal of ACM should always be conducted by licensed asbestos removal contractors to ensure minimal disturbance and negligible risk to health for workers or nearby persons. Removal must be conducted using approved methods and supervised by a competent person.

The potential for exposure to soils contaminated with asbestos material and NOA needs to be identified and controls implemented in accordance with legislative requirements, incorporating a management plan.

NATA accredited laboratories should always be used for analysis of airborne fibre samples and asbestos identification samples with NATA endorsed reports issued for all results.

The AIOH believe that current exposure standards used in Australia are adequate, and as with any carcinogen, exposures should be maintained as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP).

Additional information


February 2016


AIOH Exposure Standards Committee