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Asbestos Services

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a mineral found in nature that is made up of millions of fibres. For many years Asbestos was a popular construction material because it was cheap, abundant as well as resistant to heat and corrosion.

Asbestos fibres are often found in:

  • Asbestos Cement Sheets
  • Tilux/ Duraflex Sheets (bathrooms and kitchens)
  • Asbestos cement corrugated roof sheeting (Often called “Super Six” sheeting)
  • Asbestos cement guttering, drains & pipes
  • Asbestos insulation – pipes and electrical wires

The use of asbestos was banned in 2003 as the serious health risks from the inhalation of asbestos fibres is now widely understood.

The Risks of Asbestos?

The risk of disease from asbestos depends on how often and how long a person has been exposed. Asbestos fibres become dangerous when they become airborne and can be breathed in, causing:

  • asbestosis (scarring of lung tissue)
  • mesothelioma (cancerous tumours that develop around the intestine or lungs)
  • pleural plaques (thickening of membranes around the lungs)
  • cancer of the lung, larynx and ovary.

Symptoms of asbestos-related diseases include breathing difficulties and scarring of the lung that can be detected by x-ray.

Body Corporate Responsibilities

The Workplace Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (Qld) provides that a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must ensure that exposure to airborne asbestos is eliminated. If this is not reasonably practicable, the exposure must be minimised.

While the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) primarily refers the responsibilities of businesses and workplaces much of the legislation also covers strata schemes and bodies corporate  

Additionally, Bodies Corporate have a general duty of care to ensure the safety of all people on the property, which includes ensuring that asbestos risks are properly managed.

Managing Asbestos Risk

It’s your duty as a body corporate to manage the risks of asbestos and to protect residents, workers and visitors to your strata property from illness.

You need to ensure that you're aware of any asbestos or asbestos containing materials (ACM) at your property and enact a 4-step process to manage the risk.

Step 1: Identify the Hazard

You will firstly need to identify any asbestos that is present in your property. Under QLD legislation this must done by someone with the proper training, qualification and experience.

If asbestos has been identified you must keep an asbestos register as well as making a an asbestos management plan

Asbestos management plans and registers must be updated at least every five years.

Step 2: Assess the risk

If asbestos has been found, the next step is to make a risk assessment. This will help you figure out:

  • if there is a risk that your workers could be exposed to airborne asbestos
  • whether any effective control measures are in place
  • what actions you can take to control this risk
  • how urgently you should act.

It’s important to know that asbestos or ACM that’s in good condition and left untouched, is relatively low risk. Asbestos is most dangerous when it’s deteriorating, damaged or disturbed. This is when the harmful asbestos fibres become airborne.

When deciding if there’s a risk, you must consider whether the asbestos is:

  • in poor condition
  • likely to deteriorate or be damaged
  • likely to be disturbed due to work carried out in your place of work
  • in an area where workers are exposed to the material.

Step 3: Control the risk

After assessing the risk of exposure to airborne asbestos in your property, you’ll need to use a control measure. You may need to use a combination of these controls in order to meet your responsibilities under WHS laws.

Eliminating the risk

If the asbestos or ACM in your place of work is posing a serious risk, you should remove it.

Isolating the risk

If it's not reasonably practicable to remove the asbestos, you can isolate it. This is done by enclosing, encapsulating or sealing up the asbestos. Only using the correct tools and equipment when working around the asbestos will also help you minimise the chance of creating airborne asbestos.

Using administrative controls

You must also use administrative controls if there’s still a risk after you’ve tried to reduce it with other control measures. Administrative controls protect your persons by utlising ways that reduce their exposure to a hazard.

Using personal protective equipment (PPE)

Workers will need to use PPE in combination with other effective control measures when working with asbestos. Your selection and use of PPE should be based on your risk assessment. PPE includes disposable coveralls, gloves, respirators and protective eyewear.

Step 4: Ongoing Risk Management

If your strata property contains asbestos, risk management should be an ongoing process for you body corporate and review of control measures should be conducted regularly. Don’t wait until something goes wrong.

Work health and safety laws require you to review controls:

  • when you become aware a control measure is not working effectively
  • before a change that might give rise to a new risk
  • when you find a new hazard or risk
  • when your workers tell you that a review is needed
  • after a health and safety representative requests a review.

Asbestos management plans and registers must be updated at least every five years.

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