New MoU to mark National Asbestos Awareness Week
To mark National Asbestos Week (20–26 November 2023), the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) and the Victorian Asbestos Eradication Agency (VAEA) have confirmed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to ensure the reliable testing of asbestos in government buildings in Victoria. The MoU will ensure that these buildings have been tested against national and international standards by NATA-accredited suppliers.
Prior to being banned in 2003, asbestos was used extensively because of its sound-absorption properties; tensile strength; resistance to fire, heat, electrical and chemical damage; and its durability and affordability. By 1990, Victoria was using 60% of all asbestos imports into Australia. There are an estimated 6.4 million tonnes of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) currently in our built environment.
As part of the improvements to workplace health and safety for the implementation of the VAEA’s prioritised asbestos removal program, the VAEA requires that all stages of air monitoring, when working with potential onsite asbestos, must be performed by a NATA-accredited facility. Jennifer Evans, CEO of NATA, said accreditation is crucial to ensuring Australians’ safety.
“The Victorian Asbestos Eradication Agency has been working on behalf of the community for many years, improving the knowledge about asbestos throughout the state as well as improving safety of government-owned buildings,” Evans said.
Simone Stevenson, CEO of VAEA, said the MoU represents a step forward in the organisation’s mission to reduce the risks associated with asbestos in government-owned buildings. “The VAEA is working to improve the standards of asbestos removal and occupational hygiene services in Victoria. We have two new prequalification categories on the Victorian Government’s construction supplier register. These categories ensure suppliers hired by government have the necessary skills and accreditation for asbestos inspection and removal. The MoU with NATA ensures Victoria’s standards governing asbestos removal and occupational hygiene remain at the forefront of international practice,” Stevenson said.
The VAEA is an independent body and a subsidiary of WorkSafe Victoria, established to coordinate asbestos removal from government-owned buildings and sites. The partnership between VAEA and NATA will continue to help prevent asbestos exposure, reduce the risk of asbestos-related diseases and create safer Victorian workplaces and communities.
“With more than 4000 Australians dying every year from asbestos-related illnesses, the VAEA is committed to removing asbestos from all government-owned buildings. The accreditation process requires that NATA-accredited labs seek continual improvements and assessment by subject matter experts. By directing people to NATA-accredited laboratories, we can have confidence that contemporary practices are helping to raise standards in asbestos testing,” Stevenson said.
Since 1947, NATA has ensured that laboratories responsible for testing — everything from water, the materials used for roads through to asbestos — can do what they say they can. NATA has an MoU with the Commonwealth of Australia, as well as other state government agencies, but this represents the first agreement between NATA and a workplace health and safety agency.
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