What occupations pose the biggest risks for asbestos exposure?

PUBLISHED 12 Mar 2017

Asbestos has been linked with a number of deadly lung diseases, including asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Figures from Safe Work Australia show that asbestos caused 1,394 hospitalisations between 1998-99 and 2009-10, with 125 reported deaths in 2011. Mesothelioma is even more deadly; the cancer claimed the lives of 606 people in 2011.

You can receive compensation through the Dust Diseases Board in NSW for asbestos-related illnesses that you develop due to exposure to the material within the workplace.

Here are some of the occupations where you are most likely to be exposed to the hazardous material:

Construction workers

In Australia, building materials manufactured between the 1940s and 1980s routinely contained asbestos because the health risks were unknown during that time.

While it is illegal for asbestos to be used in materials today, construction workers may encounter the substance when working on older homes or handling imported goods from countries where asbestos is still used.

Demolition workers and domestic renovation experts are the most likely to be at risk due to the increased likelihood that asbestos dust will become unsettled and inhaled while they perform tasks.

Industrial workers

People working in factories or sites where products containing asbestos were made could also potentially develop mesothelioma and other diseases.

Again, the law prohibits the manufacture of these goods now, but employees who worked at certain companies may have been exposed to the material before the health risks were realised.

The long latency period between exposure and diagnosis – often between 20 and 50 years according to the American Cancer Society – means industrial workers who handled asbestos as far back as the 70s could still be at risk.


There were 3,432 full-time fire officers working for Fire & Rescue NSW in 2013-14, as well as a further 3,380 on call in case of emergencies.

Any time a building built before the 1980s goes up in flames, firefighters attending the scene could be exposed to the material. While the risk of repeated exposure is fairly low, diseases such as mesothelioma have been found to develop in people who have had only limited contact with asbestos.

Firefighters often wear breathing gear and protective clothing that offers some protection to asbestos fibres that contaminate the air during a blaze.

Would you like to know more about the asbestos-related diseases and the occupations most at risk? Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers. 

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.