Key ‘DOS and DON’TS’ for handling asbestos materials

A guide for householders and the general public

Page last updated: 06 March 2013

Before starting any work involving asbestos materials, you should assess the size and nature of the job, and your ability to complete the task. If the job appears to be complex, or beyond your ability, employ a qualified tradesperson. If you decide to go ahead yourself, assess the number of sessions that will be necessary to complete the work. You should then obtain enough suitable equipment to carry out the work. All the equipment described below (including personal protective equipment) should be available from most hardware and safety equipment suppliers (refer to the Yellow Pages).

Personal protective equipment

Wearing the right personal protective equipment is essential to protect your health when working with asbestos.

Wear an appropriate respirator

Ordinary dust masks are not effective in preventing the inhalation of asbestos fibres and dust. You should wear either a half-face filter respirator fitted with a class P1 or P2 filter cartridge, or a class P1 or P2 disposable respirator appropriate for asbestos. Respiratory protection devices should comply with Australian/New Zealand Standard 1716. This number will always be displayed on the mask. To ensure that the respirator is effective, users should be cleanshaven, and the respirator should have a close fit.
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Image of half-face filter respirator (correct for use) | Twin-strap disposable P2 mask (correct for use) | Ordinary single-strap mask (incorrect - do not use)

Keep your respirator on until the work session has been completed, the cleaning is done, and your contaminated clothing has been removed, bagged and sealed. For the removal of asbestos cement material, a half-face disposable or cartridge-type
particulate respirator class P1 or P2 is satisfactory. Respirators or masks should be worn continually by each person removing asbestos cement material.
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Wear disposable clothing

Disposable coveralls should be used to prevent the contamination of clothing and footwear. An attached hood or disposable hat, and suitable disposable gloves should also be worn.

The coveralls should have no external pockets or velcro fastenings, and the gloves should be sufficiently robust for the work to be done. Smooth, nonslip footwear without laces or top fasteners are preferable to plastic overshoes where there is a risk of slipping.

When handling or removing asbestos cement products in general


  • work in a well-ventilated area and, where possible, in the open air (but not on windy days)
  • thoroughly wet down the material before you start and regularly during the work by lightly spraying surfaces with water or a 1:10 polyvinyl acetate (PVA): water solution, or with low-pressure water from a garden hose (if outdoors); keep it wet until packaged for transport
  • use nonpowered hand tools (e.g. a guillotine, hand saw or handpowered drill) as these generate smaller amounts of dust and waste chips that are coarser than those generated when using power tools
  • pull out any nails first to help remove sheeting with minimal breakage
  • carefully lower (not drop) the sheets to the ground and stack on two layers of polythene sheeting at least 0.2 mm thick (e.g. heavy-duty builders’ plastic)
  • minimise cutting or breaking of the asbestos cement products
  • remove and dispose of personal protective equipment as described below
  • shower and wash your hair immediately afterwards and, regardless of whether gloves were used, thoroughly clean your hands and fingernails to remove any dust and asbestos that may be on your body.


  • use high-pressure water jets to wet surfaces as this may increase the spread of loose fibres or dust
  • slide one sheet over the surface of another as this may abrade the surface of the materials, and increase the likelihood of the release of fibres and dust
  • use power tools, abrasive cutting or sanding discs, or compressed air on asbestos cement, as these will contribute to airborne dust and debris
  • dry sand, wire brush or scrape surfaces to be painted
  • walk on corrugated asbestos cement roofs if it can be avoided — many people have been injured by falling through weathered asbestos cement roofs while attempting to treat or repair the roof surface
  • leave asbestos cement products around the garden, or where they may be broken or crushed.

When working indoors

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  • isolate the area you are working on from the rest of the building by closing and sealing internal doors
  • leave external doors and windows open to maximise ventilation
  • cover the floor with heavy-duty plastic sheeting to catch dust, debris and offcuts
  • keep household members, visitors and pets away from the area until the work is completed.


  • spread asbestos dust through areas of the building that are not protected by plastic sheeting (e.g. by walking through unprotected areas without removing shoes).

When working outdoors


  • inform your neighbours of the proposed work, and advise them to close doors and windows while the work is being undertaken
  • close all windows and doors of your home, and cover air vents to prevent asbestos fibres from entering the building
  • avoid contaminating the soil by covering the ground and vegetation with heavy-duty plastic sheeting to catch dust, debris and offcuts
  • remove play equipment, personal belongings and vehicles from the work area
  • keep household members, visitors and pets away until the work is completed (use barricades and signs if necessary).


  • wet down roofing sheets if this creates a high risk of slipping off a roof
  • work with asbestos on a windy day.

Cleaning up


  • thoroughly clean the work area, tools and equipment as soon as possible after finishing the job
  • clean up any asbestos cement residues in the work area, and on the tools and equipment used by using wet rags and a wet mop, or with a vacuum cleaner fitted with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter which conforms to AS4260. Attachments with brushes should be avoided because they are difficult to decontaminate
  • double bag, seal and dispose of any materials used during the decontamination, such as rags and mops, along with other asbestos products at a disposal facility licensed to take asbestos
  • keep dust, debris and offcuts damp with water
  • keep your respirator on.


  • remove any materials from the work area until cleaned up as described above
  • clean the work area by dry sweeping or by using a household vacuum cleaner
  • store or reuse asbestos cement sheeting
  • leave asbestos cement products around the garden, or where they may be broken or crushed.

Packaging and disposal of asbestos

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  • keep the material wet until it is packaged
  • carefully package the material, including any offcuts, in two layers of 0.2 mm thick polythene sheeting
  • keep the packages of a manageable size and completely seal them with adhesive tape
  • place smaller sized asbestos waste such as tiles, offcuts and dust in two 0.2 mm thick polythene bags (i.e. double bagged), then tie and seal for disposal with the other asbestos waste
  • only fill bags half full (to minimise the risk of splitting) and gently evacuate excess air in a way that does not cause the release of dust
  • clearly label the packages ‘ASBESTOS WASTE’ using a permanent marker pen
  • as soon as possible, securely transport and dispose of the packages at a designated asbestos waste disposal site in your area (your local government or Environment Protection Authority will provide advice on where this is)
  • alternatively, hire a special miniskip from a waste removal company to fill with your bagged asbestos waste and have it collected by the waste company (see Yellow Pages)
  • see Asbestos removal, transport and disposal for where to find information on asbestos removal, transport and disposal in your area.


  • dispose of asbestos waste in a domestic garbage bin or rubbish skip
  • reuse or recycle asbestos waste
  • dump asbestos waste illegally
  • dispose of asbestos during council ‘hard rubbish’ collections.

Removing and disposing of personal protective equipment


  • peel off coveralls, hat and gloves
  • immediately seal all these items in two 0.2 mm thick (heavy-duty) polythene bags (i.e. double bagged) and clearly label to identify the contents as described above in ‘Packaging and disposal of asbestos’
  • dispose of these bags with the other asbestos waste
  • wash or wipe reusable footwear using wet rags
  • leave the respirator on until the contaminated clothing is removed, bagged and sealed, then dispose of the respirator by doubling bagging it as described above.


  • keep or recycle disposable protective equipment; for example, don’t attempt to shake the dust out of overalls or clean the items with a vacuum cleaner
  • launder or clean gloves — the asbestos removal and laundering process causes physical damage or deterioration of the gloves.
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