How to start an asbestos removal business

Get ready to launch your new venture by using this easy-to-understand guide.

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Asbestos is a hazardous material that was used for many years in construction until its dangers were uncovered. In 2003, it was banned from use in Australia. However, many homes or buildings constructed prior to 1990 contain asbestos. So, there's a sizable market for asbestos removal, which is considered not just a home improvement project, but an important health measure.

In this guide, we've laid out the important things to know before starting your asbestos removal company.

What is an asbestos removal business?

An asbestos removal business removes harmful asbestos material or debris from buildings and construction sites. Asbestos removal is a highly specialised procedure, as the material fibres can be very hazardous when inhaled, and require proper handling and disposal.

Decide on a business structure

It's key to choose a structure that suits your business's needs, as this will determine things like your tax requirements, who is responsible for decisions and who is liable for any business losses that may arise. Here's a quick rundown of the three most common business structures:

  • Sole Trader. Being a Sole Trader means you're personally responsible for anything that goes wrong with the business, including debts and legal actions.
  • Partnership. A Partnership is two or more people going into business together. You can choose between a General or Limited Partnership – each comes with its own rules.
  • Company. A Company operates as a separate legal entity from you, the director. Companies are owned by shareholders.

Once you've settled on your business structure, it's time to choose a business name and register for an Australian Business Number (ABN). The Australian Securities and Investments Commission's business names register search tool will help you check whether your preferred name is already taken.

If you choose a company structure, you'll also get an Australian Company Number (ACN). You can register a company name too, but it's not compulsory. Again, check whether it's available first.

Asbestos removal

Abide by regulatory requirements

Motivation and hard work will be needed to get your business off the ground and a clear business plan will also help.

Asbestos removal is heavily legislated due to the risks involved. Each state or territory has its own regulating authority.

These are:

  • SafeWork NSW
  • Workplace Health and Safety Queensland
  • WorkSafe Victoria
  • WorkSafe ACT
  • SafeWork SA
  • NT WorkSafe
  • WorkSafe WA
  • WorkSafe Tasmania

You'll need to be familiar with, and comply with, all components of your state's Work Health and Safety Act. The Safe Work Code of Practice provides practical guidance to the laws. As you're providing a service, you'll also need to abide by Australian Consumer Law.

Get an asbestos removal licence

There are mandatory licencing requirements for anyone conducting asbestos removal. There are two different licence classes depending on the type of asbestos you're working with.

These are the licences you can apply for:

  • Class A asbestos removal licence. This licence covers friable asbestos that comes in powder form or can be crushed using your hands when dry.
  • Class B asbestos removal licence. This licence covers non-friable asbestos or asbestos-contaminated dust or debris for 10 square metres or more. You don't need a licence to remove non-friable asbestos that is less than 10 square metres. However, you still need to abide by Work Health and Safety Regulations.

When carrying out friable asbestos removal, an independent licensed asbestos assessor is also required on-site to carry out air monitoring, clearance inspections and issuing clearance certificates.

To apply for an asbestos licence, go to the WorkSafe government website for your state and download an application for the relevant licence:

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    Legal issues may seem tricky to get the hang of when you're starting out. There are plenty of legal services and advice available online, including document templates to save you having to write your own. Before you get things running, you'll want to have all your important legal documents in place to safeguard your business.

    Here are some you'll want to think about:

    • Service Agreement. A Service Agreement sets out the contractual arrangement between you and your client, including the services you'll be offering and the payment they will provide.
    • Cancellation Policy. Protect your business and remove any ambiguity around what happens if a client cancels by getting a Cancellation Policy established from the start. Your policy should outline your terms if the client cancels and may include provisions like forfeiture of a deposit.
    • Partnership Agreement. If you're registering your business in a Partnership, you'll need a Partnership Agreement between all involved parties. This outlines each person's roles and responsibilities, and helps to prevent future disputes.
    • Employment Agreement. When you onboard new employees, it's a legal requirement to have an Employment Agreement outlining the role and responsibilities of the employee plus their remuneration entitlements.

    Get access to legal services and documents online

    Name Product What's offered? Starting price to become a member Annual Fee from Free legal documents available?
    Lawpath
    Legal documents and templates, Access to lawyers, Legal guides, Legal advice
    $79 per month
    Essentials: $288, legal advice: $828
    You can view samples for free and you can create your first document for free.
    Choose an annual plan from just $288 and get unlimited revisions to your legal or business documents. Plus, unlock exclusive partner offers.
    LawDepot
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
    $4.99 per month
    $59.88
    Free one week trial available which gives access to hundreds of documents.
    Customise and download legal documents in as little as five minutes. Plus, LawDepot offers peace of mind with two service guarantees.
    Legal123
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
    Varies per template
    N/A
    No
    Legal123 offers a range of individual templates or document packages for consultants, app developers, personal trainers and more.
    LegalVision
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides, Legal advice
    $49 + GST per week
    $2,548 + GST
    No
    Your business can take advantage of unlimited lawyer consultations, fast turnaround times and free legal templates with LegalVision.
    Law Central
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
    Free for the Silver membership
    Gold: $99
    You can view samples and create your own document for free with the Silver membership.
    Law Central offers a large number of legal templates for super, trusts, estate planning, employment and commercial uses.
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    Buy the right equipment

    Setting up an asbestos removal business comes with some setup costs, as you will need to buy specialised equipment and protective gear.

    Here are some key things you'll need to get started:

    • Personal protective equipment (PPE). Workers need to be decked out in safety equipment for every job, including safety masks, safety glasses, hard hats, gloves, coveralls and safety shoes.
    • Decontamination unit. These come in the form of tents with multiple sections where your employees can change clothes and shower. This is necessary to contain any remaining asbestos powder and the water run-off has to be attached to a water filtration system as well.
    • Asbestos removal closure and negative pressure unit. The work area has to be enclosed and sealed while a negative pressure unit runs to keep any asbestos fibres from escaping the area.
    • HEPA filtered H-Class industrial vacuum cleaners. This type of vacuum is much more powerful than your regular household vacuum and can capture even the smallest of fibres.
    • Asbestos waste bags and sealed containers. These bags are specially designed to make sure no fibres can escape through the material and usually come marked with the necessary waste warning.
    • Tools. You will need various types of tools to remove and contain the asbestos as you work.

    Decide how much to charge customers

    Generally, the price of asbestos removal is calculated on a square-metre basis and costs from $30-$150 per square metre, according to Airtasker. The cost of asbestos removal varies greatly depending on each individual job.

    Some considerations to have front-of-mind when quoting your price include:

    • The volume of asbestos to be removed
    • The condition of the asbestos (e.g. whether it's damaged)
    • How difficult the asbestos is to access
    • Your expenses, such as travel

    You might consider also doing some research on competitors in your area and see what they charge. If you discover your rates are much higher for similar services, you may want to reconsider what you're charging so you can be competitive in the marketplace.

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    Find your first clients

    If you don't already have one, then you'll need to consider putting some time into building a website. Remember that good website design and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) are two crucial factors for helping your website show up when people search for asbestos removal services. Helpful website-building tools like Wix, WordPress and Squarespace can simplify the process.

    Tools like Google My Business can also help to get your business to show up via the Google search function and Google Maps. Social media platforms like Facebook can also help draw more attention to your business.

    Don't underestimate the usefulness of online marketplaces either. Marketplaces like Airtasker, ServiceSeeking, hipages, and Oneflare help you advertise your services and connect with people looking for asbestos removal.

    Frequently asked questions

    What kind of insurance do I need?

    It's critical to have insurance to protect yourself, your business and your clients from risk. As there's a high level of risk involved with asbestos removal, many standard business insurance policies like Public Liability Insurance and Professional Indemnity Insurance generally don't cover any issues or damage that arise in connection with asbestos.

    You will need to look into a specialist insurance product for asbestos liability and, to attain one, you must provide evidence of your removal licence.

    How can I get more work?

    For best results, market your asbestos removal business using a variety of strategies:

    • Improve your website
    • Social media
    • Online marketplaces such as hipages, Airtasker and Oneflare
    • Business directories like White Pages, Yellow Pages and True Local
    • Word-of-mouth recommendations

    Is owning an asbestos removal business profitable?

    It can be, yes. If you're prepared to invest time, money and hard work into your business, you will find it pays off. However, remember there are significant startup costs involved in an asbestos removal business, so it will take some time before you see a return on your investment.

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