Australia: Did you know that you need to update your asbestos management plan and asbestos register every 5 years?

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Act) and Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 (Qld) (Regulations) specify how asbestos is to be managed in workplaces.


If you manage or control a workplace, you must engage an appropriately qualified person (e.g. licensed asbestos assessors or asbestos removal supervisors) to audit your workplace and identify any asbestos or asbestos containing material (ACM).

It is not necessary to conduct an audit if you have reasonable grounds to believe that asbestos is not present. These may include:

  • your workplace was constructed after 31 December 2003; or
  • your workplace was constructed before that time, but is made (including the roof) entirely of metal, brick or concrete and has no internal walls that are made of fibro, gyprock or similar cladding.

If there are areas of your workplace that are inaccessible (e.g. air conditioning ducts) and are likely to contain asbestos or ACM, you must assume that asbestos is present.

You must also assume asbestos is present if the assessor is unable to identify material as asbestos or ACM, but reasonably believes it to be so.


If asbestos or ACM is found, you must use signs or labels or another clear way of identifying its location. You must also prepare and maintain an asbestos register and an asbestos management plan.


You do not need to keep an up-to-date asbestos register if:

  • your workplace was constructed after 31 December 2003;
  • no asbestos was identified in the audit; and
  • no asbestos is likely to be present in your workplace from time to time.

Unless the above circumstances apply, you must keep an up-to-date asbestos register.


You need to review your asbestos register and revise it, if necessary, when:

  • your asbestos management plan is reviewed (see below);
  • further asbestos or ACM is identified at your workplace; or
  • asbestos is removed from, disturbed, sealed or enclosed at your workplace.


Your asbestos management plan needs to be reviewed, and revised if necessary, when:

  • you review your asbestos register or a control measure (i.e. a measure which is used to minimise a risk to health and safety);
  • asbestos is removed from, or disturbed, sealed or enclosed at your workplace;
  • the plan is no longer adequate for managing asbestos or ACM at your workplace;
  • a health and safety representative requests a review when one of the above circumstances may affect the health and safety of a member of the workgroup and you have not adequately reviewed the plan; and
  • at least once every 5 years.


The requirements to maintain an asbestos register and asbestos management plan apply in the same way to workplaces with "naturally occurring asbestos" (ie the natural occurrence of asbestos in geological deposits), except that the asbestos management plan needs to be reviewed and revised if the plan is no longer adequate for managing the asbestos. This requirement will be effective from 1 January 2014.


If your workplace was built prior to 31 December 2003, before you demolish or refurbish your workplace, you must:

  • ensure that you review and revise the asbestos register; and
  • give a copy of the revised register to the contractor performing the demolition or refurbishment works.


When selling, leasing or transferring management of a workplace with asbestos or ACM, you need to ensure that a copy of the asbestos register is given to the purchaser, tenant or incoming manager.

Failing to give the purchaser or tenant a copy of the asbestos register will be a breach of the Act attracting a maximum penalty of $36,000, but will not invalidate the sale contract or lease. As these requirements are not standard conditions, special conditions requiring compliance with the Act and Regulations need to be drafted into your contract of sale or lease.


Under the Act, directors can be personally liable for breaches of the Act.

Directors and officers are also required to exercise due diligence in complying with obligations under the Act. For example, this requires taking reasonable steps to acquire and keep up-to-date knowledge of work health and safety matters.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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