The importance of asbestos medical checks
Employers are being reminded by WorkSafe Victoria that they must ensure they are meeting their legal obligations surrounding asbestos.
By law, employers are required to identify any asbestos-containing material in a workplace. Asbestos removal licence holders must notify WorkSafe prior to any removal works, display appropriate signage and ensure workers are wearing personal protective equipment during its removal.
Employers must also arrange medical examinations for all workers engaged in ongoing asbestos-related activities where there is a risk to exposure to airborne asbestos fibres in excess of the exposure standard.
Licensed asbestos removalists must arrange medical checks for all workers tasked with asbestos removal.
64-year-old plumber Neil Woolard died from mesothelioma last year, highlighting the dangers of asbestos exposure. His death devastated partner Monica Ghirxi, who said in a WorkSafe video that she wished to make as many people as possible aware of the aggressive cancer caused by inhaling or ingesting asbestos.
“It’s more common than people think and you need to go and get yourself checked if you are in that field,” she said.
“This doesn’t just affect Neil, it’s affected all of us. He lived life to the fullest and it was taken away from him through no fault of his own. He worked so hard, he loved his job, he loved plumbing, he was so good at it and it destroyed him.”
Ghirxi said that anyone who, like her husband, may have been exposed to asbestos-containing material, needs to get checked by a medical professional.
“If your loved one won’t go and get checked, you need to push them to get checked and tell them it’s just not all about them, it’s about you as well,” she said.
“So as a wife, as a spouse, as a partner, as a child, make sure the person that you love looks after themselves at work and gets themselves checked for mesothelioma.”
Ghirxi’s plea coincides with Asbestos Awareness Week (21–27 November), which this year carries the theme Think Twice About Asbestos and asks businesses to “do it the right way” by ensuring the proper and lawful disposal of asbestos-containing material.
WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety Narelle Beer said asbestos-containing material remained a significant safety risk.
“Asbestos Awareness Week is a time for employers to take stock of their obligations regarding asbestos and ensure they are not putting any workers or members of the public at risk,” she said.
“The ramifications for not following the rules can include serious disease or even death, which is why WorkSafe regularly conducts proactive asbestos inspections.”
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