Coming across asbestos? Play by the new rules

Are you running a business (for example, building, roofing, or plumbing) with workers who may disturb or remove asbestos or asbestos-containing material (ACM)? In April, changes were made to the regulations governing work involving asbestos.

Asbestos regulations were updated to bring New Zealand into line with other countries. With more than 170 New Zealand workers dying each year from asbestos-related diseases, our work practices need to improve.

Under the new regulations, which came into force on 4 April 2016, a licence is required to remove more than 10m2 of non-friable (bonded) asbestos or ACM in one job, or any amount of friable asbestos. The licence will be issued by government health and safety agency WorkSafe New Zealand.

New nationwide licensing system for asbestos removal

The new licensing system for asbestos removal is aimed at ensuring people removing asbestos have the necessary skills and experience to keep themselves, and others, safe.

Current Certificate of Competence holders can continue removal work

Current Certificate of Competence holders can continue to work under the new asbestos regulations (under the categories listed on their certificate) until that certificate expires.

Licence or no licence?

Here are some common examples of building, plumbing or electrical work, with a guide to whether you’ll need an asbestos removal licence.

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Work which may involve the removal of non-friable asbestos:

  • Soffit removal
  • Removing cement roofing sheets
  • Removing external wall cladding or textured ceilings
  • Replacing lino flooring

This work will require a Class B licence if you’re removing over 10m2 of non-friable asbestos containing material.

Maintenance and servicing work which may involve ACM:

Repairing or replacing sheets of cement roofing that are damaged or deteriorated

Replacing damaged or deteriorated cement water pipes

Drilling or cutting into soffits or wall linings.

Building maintenance or servicing is allowed without a licence under the new regulations. However, if it involves removing more than 10m2 of non-friable asbestos or any amount of friable asbestos then a licence is required.

Removal of friable asbestos:

Removal of insulation materials, including lagging.

Any removal task where the asbestos is in a powder form when dry, or able to be crumbled or reduced to a powder using your hands.

This work will require a Class A licence, because the asbestos fibres are friable. This means you could be exposed to larger quantities of airborne fibres.

Notification five days in advance

Under the new regulations, notification of licensed asbestos removal must be made to WorkSafe five days or more before the removal starts. Notifications can be made on the WorkSafe website.

More information

You can read more about the new regulations on the WorkSafe website.  Licence applications and licence fees are available online: worksafe.govt.nz/asbestos

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