Five ways DYCCI members can safeguard their businesses and families from asbestos risk.
Older buildings in the region are full of asbestos, it is everywhere in homes and buildings in WA. It has been used extensively for building purposes since Lang Hancock discovered ‘blue asbestos’ in 1936*. It was New Year’s Eve 2003 before a national ban to prohibit the use of asbestos was finally declared in Australia.
So, while asbestos mining in WA may have ceased in 1966, imported asbestos was still used to produce asbestos containing materials (ACMs) products until 1987. Stock of these products remained in circulation for many years after. Therefore, unless your buildings were constructed after 2003, asbestos-materials maybe ever-present, containing fibres that lurk ominously until disturbed to become airborne and contaminate the air you breathe.
Exposure to asbestos fibres can cause Mesothelioma, Asbestosis and Lung Cancer
You’ll want to manage asbestos in your home to care for your loved ones. You’ll also want to protect your Employees and Customers. You have legal responsibilities if you are a Business Owner, Manager and/or Employee with control of a Premise or Undertaking, to identify and manage asbestos containing materials that are present.
This is how you can safeguard your business and family from asbestos risk.
The best way to protect yourself and your family from asbestos risk is ensure you know what types of asbestos materials are on your property and where they are. You can then safely manage these items.
- Maintain a register of asbestos materials.
This can be useful to assist when planning renovations to ensure that contractors doing works are aware of and can manage any risk of disturbing asbestos or releasing fibres. Suspected-asbestos materials can be identified by people with suitable training and sufficient knowledge, experience or skill to identify these materials in your home or workplace. Once identified, locations should be recorded for reference when needed.
- Assess the risk from asbestos materials
It is a legal requirement for workplaces to identify and assess risk from asbestos materials under the State Occupation Safety and Health Regulations (1996). This responsibility falls to ‘Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs)’ who must consider and manage risk from asbestos to employees, in addition to a duty of care to prevent harm to customers, clients and the Public.
Well maintained and undisturbed asbestos building materials pose very little risk to building occupants. However, seemingly simple building maintenance and improvements, like installing new light fittings, or even clearing the gutters before a storm can release asbestos fibres from ACMs that may be inhaled by the person doing the work, or the people occupying the surrounding spaces.
Having a register with a risk assessment prepared by a Competent Person is the primary and key step to eliminate or otherwise minimise risk from exposure to airborne asbestos fibres.
Ensure no asbestos is present on your property.
- If your property does contain asbestos, have it removed.
The ultimate goal is for all workplaces to be free from ACM according to the “Code of Practice for the Management and Control of Asbestos in Workplaces [NOHSC: 2018 (2005)]’’. Asbestos removal is not always the best action, but when it is, you should have the materials removed by a Licenced Asbestos Removalist (https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/publications/unrestricted-asbestos-licence-holders).
It is critical to engage a well recommended and licenced asbestos removal contractor. You should know that getting a restricted asbestos removal licence is not costly or difficult, and numerous ‘cowboy-contractors’ have been known to do poor quality removal works that pose risk and cause unnecessary concern.
- Seek advice from an independent asbestos- risk management expert (such as an Environmental Consultant or Occupational Hygienist) to help select your removalists contractor.
The removal contractor must complete the work in accordance with the requirements of the ‘’Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos 2nd edition [NOHSC:2002 (2005)]. This covers the safe removal of asbestos from all workplaces by setting out control measures to address potential for exposure to respirable airborne asbestos fibres. The Code also discusses the responsibilities and competence of parties involved in asbestos removal.
Have your removal works independently verified prior to re-occupying
- Engage an independent Competent Person to conduct a ‘’clearance inspection’ to confirm it is suitable for the asbestos-removal work area to be re-occupied following the removal works.
The ’Code of Practice for the Safe removal of Asbestos 2nd ed [NOHSC:2002(2005)]’ states a thorough visual inspection is required to be conducted to confirm the asbestos removal work is completed and that resumption of normal activities by unprotected personnel can occur. The Independent inspection should be documented with a Clearance Certificate from the Independent Assessor stating the outcome.
Air quality monitoring to assess for asbestos fibres can also be conducted as part of the clearance monitoring. This is a specialised task and the results can be used to provide additional reassurance that the removal contractor has conducted the works appropriately and that the building is safe for occupants.
Finally, seek expert advice, Get advice from WorkSafe WA or City of Busselton environmental health officers or contact Dunsborough based ABEC Environmental Consulting Pty Ltd Principal Consultants Glen Alexander (0418 329 390) or Damon Bourke (0422 812 845).
About the Author:
Glen Alexander (MBA, BSc) is co-founder, Director, and Principal Environmental Scientist at ABEC Environmental Consulting Pty Ltd (ABEC). Glen has extensive experience in the assessment and management of contaminated sites and hazardous materials including asbestos. Glen has the requisite experience to be engaged as a ‘Competent Person’ to identify and assess asbestos risk in accordance the Codes of Practice for the management and control of asbestos in workplaces and for safe removal of asbestos. Additionally, Glen has the capabilities to act as ‘Lead Consultant’ in accordance with the WA Department of Health Guidelines to assess, manage and remediate asbestos-contaminated soils. Glen has adopted these roles on sites throughout Western Australia and internationally.