Asbestos is a hazardous material. Therefore, its removal is part of risk management practices in a business. In Australia, a person who conducts business must ensure, so far as is reasonably possible, that the exposure to airborne asbestos is eliminated in their building. If the exposure cannot be totally eliminated, then it must be reduced among workers. Managing the risks that are related to asbestos include the following:
- Identifying asbestos in the workplace and recording the identification in an asbestos register.
- Assessing the risk of exposure to airborne asbestos particles.
- Eliminating or minimising exposure risks by implementing control measures.
- Reviewing control measures to make sure they are effective.
The Types of Controls that are Used
When selecting proper control measures, the following hierarchy of controls should be considered:
- Eliminating or removing the asbestos.
- Substituting the risk by isolating it or applying certain engineering controls.
- Enclosing, sealing, encapsulation, or employing specific tools.
- Using administrative controls in the form of safe work practices.
- Employing the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Contacting an Asbestos Removal Company
A combination of the above controls may be needed in order to adequately manage an asbestos problem. Generally, businesses contact asbestos removal companies, such as PROAS, so they can obtain a recommendation as to how to proceed.
According to Australian law, workers need to be consulted about asbestos. If workers are represented by a health and safety representative then this type of consultation must include the representative. This consultation is a critical part of managing safety and health risks. Workers need to know how to identify asbestos and how to handle it safely. This ensures that safety instructions and safe practices in the workplace are practiced and followed.
Health and safety representatives should have access to relevant details on matters that impact the health and safety of a workplace staff, such as asbestos exposure information and the asbestos register. If a person within a company cannot be used to identify asbestos, an external person must be engaged. People who are considered competent in this respect include:
- Occupational hygienists who have asbestos experience
- Licensed asbestos assessors
- Asbestos removal supervisors
- Anyone who has a statement of attainment in the unit competency for the material
Making an Identification
Anyone making an identification should know when a building was built and if any refurbishments, or additions, were made before the 31st of December, 2003. The construction or building age is important, as asbestos was used during a specific time period.
Asbestos was widely used in insulation and construction materials in buildings until the late 1980s when bans on the material’s manufacture and use were put into place. However, a full prohibition on asbestos use was not facilitated until the end of December in 2003. Because bans were not absolute prior to this time, it is possible that the substance may still be present in buildings constructed up to the 31st of December, 2003. Some materials were also stockpiled. Therefore, asbestos can still be identified in constructions that occurred after 2003.