Home > Business warned to act on asbestos before new laws

Business warned to act on asbestos before new laws

Supplier News

Coffey Environments’ Paul Foley said the introduction of the Fair Work Act and the move to national occupational health and safety (OHS) laws were likely to impact the way in which Australian businesses managed asbestos and other hazardous materials. “Major changes to the workplace environment are looming, and now is the time for businesses to get their houses in order, to protect staff, to cover their legal liability and to facilitate the smooth running of their worksites,” Paul said.

One of the imminent changes to the workplace environment is as a result of the Fair Work Act, which gives union officials the right to enter a business without notification, if it is believed there are health and safety breaches. The legislation, which comes into force on 1 January 2010, also extends the right of entry to workplaces where there are no union members. “However, businesses can proactively manage health and safety in the workplace and thereby facilitate the smooth running of the site.

“An up-to-date asbestos register and an asbestos management plan provide a business with information to run its site safely and to cost-effectively manage asbestos-containing material in the workplace. Under the new legislation, an asbestos register will also likely become an effective tool to communicate with employees and union officials,” he explained."

The current asbestos management code requires managers of residential, commercial and industrial buildings which operate as a workplace to hold an asbestos register on site. If asbestos remains in-situ at the site, the codes requires an asbestos management plan to be developed and implemented, to control the risk of exposure to airborne asbestos fibres. The code also states that only people who are competent in the identification of asbestos-containing materials are permitted to carry out these tasks.

“One way to make sure you are dealing with a competent supplier is to check whether they are accredited by NATA, Australia’s national accreditation body. Being accredited by NATA provides heightened assurance of the robustness of the systems used and ensures specialists are looking in the right places in the right way,” Paul said, whose business recently underwent a rigorous process to receive Australia’s first accreditation for asbestos and hazardous material surveying.

Coffey Environments provides asbestos and hazardous material services throughout Australia, USA, New Zealand and the Philippines. It also provides services to vessels prior to entering Australian waters, ensuring they are safe from asbestos and other hazardous materials, and suitable for Australian crew to board. Coffey holds all three accreditations for asbestos work available in Australia - surveying, air monitoring/fibre counting and fibre identification.

Where is Asbestos found?

Items that contain asbestos are often referred to asbestos containing materials. They are found in:

  • Loose asbestos fill products, eg fire pillows and “blow in” insulation
  • Preformed insulation, eg pipe lagging and boiler lagging
  • Sprayed coatings for fire proofing
  • Insulating boards, eg heater bank insulation and fire barriers
  • Fire door cores
  • Paper and felts for insulation on electrical equipment, eg electrical switchboards
  • Water proof membranes
  • Industrial paints and coatings
  • Ropes and textiles to wrap around hot items
  • Gaskets and washers
  • Friction linings in lift brakes or automatic door clutches
  • Asbestos cement sheeting either flat or profiled, eg roofs, eaves, walls, ceiling.
  • Moulded asbestos cement products, eg extraction hoods, junction boxes
  • Vinyl floor coverings either incorporated into the tile or as a backing paper
Four step checklist to managing Asbestos

1. Hazard identification

  • Information- Review of relevant information and research
  • Identification- Identification of asbestos containing materials in the workplace and/or environment   (asbestos survey)
  • Analysis- NATA-accredited lab analysis confirming asbestos-containing material present or not
  • Register- Development of an asbestos register
2. Assessment of risk

  • Assessment- Risk assessment of confirmed asbestos-containing material on site
  • Prioritisation- Recommendations and prioritisation of asbestos containing materials management
  • Recommendations- Recommendation of re-surveys in accordance with risk and legislative requirements
  • On-going asbestos risk advice

3. Application of controls

  • Labelling- Labelling of asbestos containing materials on site
  • Data- Ongoing data management for large portfolios
  • Training- Provision of asbestos awareness training and communication strategies
  • Administration- Develop administrative controls such as safe systems of work and permit to work         procedures
  • Review- Ongoing asbestos advice and review of management plan
  • Removal project management- Development of specifications for asbestos removal
  • Engage removal contractor through tender process
  • Project manage removal of high risk situations
  • Project manage removal due to demolition or refurbishment
  • Provision of air-borne fibre monitoring
  • Clearance inspections and certificates

4. Monitoring and clearance
  • Develop re-inspection regime
  • Review of register and management plan
  • Periodic monitoring
  • Provision of clearance certificate


Newsletter sign-up

The latest products and news delivered to your inbox