Handbook launched for better asbestos awareness and management


Thursday, 18 January, 2018


Handbook launched for better asbestos awareness and management

A user-friendly asbestos management resource package has been developed by the national Asbestos Awareness campaign, in order to help improve regulatory compliance across the sector.

The Asbestos Management Handbook for Commercial and Non-residential Properties provides property owners, managers, developers and workers with essential, practical, user-friendly guidelines and tools to manage ACMs in line with requirements.

Preventing exposure to asbestos fibres is the most effective means of preventing asbestos-related diseases. With 13 Australians dying every week from asbestos-related diseases, 12 from malignant mesothelioma, and with another 13 diagnosed with this incurable cancer, it is vital that all those working in the commercial and non-residential property sector ensure compliance with regulations to minimise exposure of workers, tradespeople and bystanders.

Although asbestos was banned in commercial and non-residential properties in the 1980s, asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) continued to be used in multiple locations throughout an extensive range of properties prior to 31 December 2003, requiring strict regulations for asbestos management in accordance with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (WH&S) and the Asbestos Codes of Practice. However, compliance has sometimes proven challenging for this sector.

If undisturbed, well maintained and in stable, sealed and good condition, asbestos and ACMs are unlikely to pose health risks. However, risks occur when ACMs are disturbed during maintenance, refurbishment or demolition. Microscopic fibres are released and can be inhaled when ACMs are damaged, broken, cut, drilled, sawn, sanded, scraped, waterblasted or if disturbed when using tools — particularly power tools, which release a high concentration of fibres.

The handbook includes a comprehensive list of building types including commercial, industrial, government, recreational, agricultural, hospitality, health services and education facilities, religious, transport and tourism structures. It details the roles and responsibilities for the management of asbestos and ACM, provides examples of best practice, and a comprehensive list and images to demonstrate ACMs commonly found in commercial and non-residential properties.

Importantly, the handbook also provides practical guidance on the steps required to adhere to regulations including how to develop and manage an Asbestos Management Plan and an Asbestos Register, the training requirements for workers, and it defines asbestos inspections, surveys, risk assessments and the steps required when asbestos removal is in progress.

“While there are strict requirements for the management, control and removal of asbestos or ACM, one of the dominant challenges affecting compliance has been the absence of user-friendly resources for people unfamiliar with technical information, with some finding the regulations rather extensive and complex to follow and implement,” said John Batty, managing consultant, occupational hygiene and hazardous materials management specialist for Prensa.

“We know that the greater the exposure to asbestos fibres, the greater the risk of developing life-threatening asbestos-related diseases. In developing this essential, user-friendly information package making the requirements easily accessible, the new handbook featuring step-by-step procedures, complemented by fact sheets and templates, is a long-awaited vital resource that will help improve compliance in the sector resulting in improved safe work management procedures and the prevention of avoidable exposure to asbestos fibres by workers and bystanders.”

The sector will also find the fact sheets on roles and responsibilities for management of asbestos and ACM, the procedures for unexpected asbestos finds or incidents and the step-by-step application of personal protective and respiratory equipment all valuable resources when training workers on asbestos safe work management procedures. The package is complemented by digital promotional tools for websites, social media and posters for on-site promotion.

The comprehensive handbook, asbestos management templates and fact sheets can be downloaded from https://asbestosawareness.com.au/commercial-properties/commercial-downloads/.

Image credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Alistair Forrester Shankie

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