Asbestos Management in the Workplace: The 12 Step Guide

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In recent years, we’ve learnt of the crippling effects asbestos exposure can have on one’s health. In order to provide a safe working environment for all employees in the construction or building industry, management or whomever is in charge of the workplace must take a number of steps to manage asbestos.

Asbestos was once one of the most popular building materials in Australia with more than 3000 different products including drains, roofs, gutters, breaks, fencing, and fibro, all using asbestos to construct their materials. When left undisturbed, asbestos does not pose a direct health risk to those in its vicinity. Asbestos becomes a health risk when its fibres are released into the air and inhaled. Asbestos inhalation can cause asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.

A total ban on all asbestos products in Australia came into effect on the 31st of December 2003. Since then, it has been illegal to make, use, or import any materials that contain asbestos into the country. Furthermore, workers are not allowed to handle asbestos products unless they have been trained and hold a licence that is current and suitable for the work in completed. Naturally, there is still a hangover from when asbestos products were used and therefore can pose a risk in the workplace.

The steps or plan for Asbestos Management in the workplace should involve:

  1. Detecting any asbestos locations or any naturally occurring asbestos. Specialists in the field GBAR recommend having regular inspections if work is taking place in a building built before the 1990s and if known asbestos materials were used in the process. Samples should be taken of any naturally occurring substances.
  2. Management should always be up to date on asbestos information and maintain awareness.
  3. A detailed outline of who is in charge of what during an asbestos related emergency or incident and the correct procedure.
  4. Accessible and free information, consulting, training and education to employees carrying out work with or around asbestos products.
  5. A review every five years, when requested by a representative, when asbestos is removed, disturbed, enclosed or sealed, when there have been changes to the control measure, or when the asbestos management plan is no longer sufficient.
  6. The Management Plan should always be as up to date as possible.
  7. Decisions about how the asbestos should be managed and why. For example, safe work
  8. Always be provided to any worker or anyone intending to carry it out in the workplace, including health and safety representatives in the workplace.
  9. A good outline of how asbestos risks will be tapered, including control measures and consideration of appropriateness.
  10. List of employees that have been made responsible with asbestos related management and their intended responsibilities.
  11. A general timetable of the management of risk exposure to asbestos in the workplace and potential procedures involved.
  12. If required, air monitoring in the workplace.

Some other important things to note and raise awareness with employees is the general importance of education on asbestos risk exposure. Employees should be aware of not using high-pressure water or compressed air sprays, brooms, or any other tools that might release asbestos into the air of the workplace.

Asbestos removal can only be completed with the appropriate license to do so. Small amounts of less than 10 square meters may be removed under supervision, but only if the materials are non-friable. Anyone who is removing asbestos is required to be trained properly and hold the relevant licenses to ensure safety for the entire workplace and their health.

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