Asbestos installations in South Africa

Building owners need to have asbestos installations assessed. This is what is involved.

The Asbestos Abatement Regulations 2020, enforced by the Department of Employment and Labour, make it clear that damaged asbestos on buildings is dangerous, and no further damage should be risked in the process of repair or installation of any kind.

In terms of the regulations, building owners are required to have an asbestos assessment done and an asbestos inventory in place that notes the condition of asbestos on the site.

Geoffrey Jäck, managing director of registered asbestos contractor Indawo says that structures like satellite dishes and solar panels that are installed to keep up with modern technology and reduce demand on energy resources may cause damage to asbestos roofing. This exacerbates the dangers of airborne asbestos fibres.

“This is precisely what the regulations are designed to avoid,” he says. “The risks to workers, visitors and the public are far too great to warrant the potential damage to asbestos that the installation of various substructures are likely to cause.”


The Department of Employment and Labour is committed to the total removal of asbestos in buildings for the safety of all. The regulations call for an asbestos management plan that details the removal of damaged asbestos.

Jäck says that removing asbestos in itself carries significant risks. Asbestos removal is done under strict control measures, including air monitoring. General entry into asbestos construction sites is prohibited, and workers and visitors are required to wear asbestos-related personal protection equipment.

The prolonged release of asbestos fibres emanating from damaged asbestos has far-reaching consequences. Asbestos used in construction up to and beyond the 1980s is now reaching the end of its lifespan and is deteriorating more rapidly. Left on buildings, factories and, especially schools and places of worship, damaged asbestos releases fibres into the air. After sustained inhalation, these will pose a health risk to people who work in or regularly visit these buildings.

“The country faces an energy crisis and increased load shedding, coupled with potential future water restrictions. Equipment such as generators, solar panels and water tanks are increasingly becoming a necessity to mitigate these challenges, and the dangers from damaged and deteriorating asbestos cannot be ignored,” says Jäck.


He says building owners shouldn’t panic.

“An asbestos assessment should be carried out first to ascertain the state of all asbestos on a building. If there is no damage, a further assessment needs only be done again after 24 months. In such cases, asbestos still in good condition does not need to be removed.”

  • If an assessment reveals that a small section – less than 10 m2 – requires removal, this can be done according to the Asbestos Abatement Regulations 2020 by a Type 1 registered asbestos contractor.
  • For larger areas, complete removal of damaged asbestos roofing is required to be done by a Type 2 or Type 3 registered asbestos contractor.
  • Installation of structures will require the asbestos roof sheeting to be removed entirely, even if the asbestos is in good condition.


A formal letter from the Department of Employment and Labour to contractors states: “The drilling into asbestos cement roof sheets at any speed may release fibres and will be increasing the surface area of the asbestos material causing asbestos dust. Replacing screws or even using existing screw-holes will cause risk of abasing the asbestos roof sheets and release fibres during the process of installation and afterwards.

“Although processes could well be controlled during installation, after installation, the client’s employees are still left with the asbestos material in place, but now with a greater surface area for asbestos fibre release, possible damage to the sheets that were worked on, and a greater possibility for abrasion of the asbestos materials due to the slightest movement. The asbestos roof sheets will be left in place on the building and eventual abatement of the asbestos will be very unlikely.

“Furthermore, with solar panels or ‘over-roofing’ sheets installed over asbestos roof sheets, an inspection of the condition and maintenance will be physically restricted, if not totally prevented.”

Jäck says it’s preferable to avoid installing structures on asbestos roofs, and not only because the law says so. Installing a structure only to be removed later to expose damaged asbestos will be a waste of money. However, he says Indawo can offer advice on options available to finance solar installations and roof replacements when considering these installations on a building.

Writer : Sarah-Jane Meyer

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