The Dangers of Asbestos: What You Need to Know

Asbestos related diseases is New Zealand’s number one work-related killer. Approximately 220 people die each year from preventable asbestos-related disease. 

We’d like to give you some basic information on the dangers of asbestos, where it can be found and what you can do to avoid it.

What are the different types of asbestos?

There are two types of asbestos:

  • Friable (Class A): crushed or in a dust form, such as paper backing on vinyl or pipe lagging
  • Non-friable (Class B): found in bonded products such as cement sheets and guttering.

Why is it so dangerous?

Inhaling asbestos fibres can cause a range of irreversible damage and diseases. 

One of the most common asbestos related diseases is asbestosis. This causes severe scarring of the inner lung tissue. People usually have pain and severe difficulty breathing. Although this isn’t directly fatal in itself, it can lead to respiratory or heart failure.

Damage from asbestos may occur in as little as five years, or take as long as 40-50 years after exposure for symptoms to appear. Unfortunately, many people do not realise they have been exposed until it’s too late. 

It is vital you don’t attempt to remove asbestos yourself, unless you are trained, certified where required, and fully competent – we cannot stress the importance of this enough!

Where can it be found?

If you’re planning to renovate or partially demolish a building, have a survey done first to identify if Asbestos Containing Material is present. If it is, contact your local asbestos removalist. 

Any building constructed up until the year 2000 has a high probability of containing asbestos. View the posters created by WorkSafe on locations where Asbestos can be found on industrial and residential buildings. It is useful to familierise yourself and your workers with the areas relevant to your work. If it is not expected that asbestos would be present and you see unidentified asbestos while working, stop work immediately and arrange for an assessment of the Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) to be carried out. 

Is there a safe way to dispose of asbestos?

Yes, there is. Disposal must meet strict guidelines. Bagging and wrapping asbestos pieces is essential in any sort of removal – and dumping asbestos-containing materials can only be done in authorised locations. It is important to check with your local council for specific disposal locations and requirements. Wherever possible, leave this to the asbestos specialists.

Removal of ACM greater than 10m² can only be performed by a licensed removalist. Clearance certificates are documented records of the removal and correct disposal. Keep these records on-hand with the other site documentation. 

What more can you do?

Recognition means everything when it comes to asbestos, signage on-site, equipping your team with knowledge of asbestos dangers, using the HazardCo App to assess risks, and educating your workers could be the difference between life and death.


For additional education and training on Asbestos we have partnered with two training providers, Safety N Action and BeSafe which both provide Asbestos courses. Check out your HazardCo’s Perks and Partners page for further information. There is a course available for whatever your asbestos needs. 

What’s more, as a HazardCo customer with a current membership, you’ll get a 10% discount on any courses you undertake through these partners. Just advise them you are a HazardCo customer upon booking. 


Remember to also undertake health monitoring for any workers who work with airborne contaminants (such as asbestos or silica dust). See Habit Health a national health monitoring provider – and again, as a HazardCo customer you receive a 10% discount on any services engaged. 


Need more information?

HazardCo’s Advisory Team can help with any asbestos questions or other health and safety matters – give us a call on 0800 555 339.

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