Management of Asbestos

by admin-king | 5th March 2015

The Workplace Health and Safety (WH & S) Regulation and the associated Codes of Practice which detail how the Regulation should be implemented have all been entirely re-written and new Codes of Practice created where necessary as part of the harmonisation of WH & S law across Australia. These came into force in Queensland on January 1st 2012.

With regard to Management of Asbestos in the Workplace the following major changes have occurred:

All commercial buildings in Australia built prior to 2004 must have had an asbestos inspection carried out and if asbestos is found or assumed to be present an Asbestos Register and Asbestos Management Plan created. This must be maintained and reviewed.

This change has occurred because asbestos was still able to be legally imported into Australia until December 2003. Most building products coming into or being made in Australia were by this time asbestos free however machinery constructed up to this time may have used asbestos components such as gaskets, seals, brake or clutch linings.

Many overseas countries and particularly Asian manufacturers still use asbestos and it is an ongoing job for Australian Quarantine and Customs services to keep these materials out of the country as they are not always marked or named as asbestos containing.

If asbestos is not found or not assumed to be present then this result must be kept along with the “reasonable grounds” on which this assumption has been made or the assessment made by a competent person.

In both these cases the documentation must be available onsite and accessible to workers, their health and safety representatives and other persons. So even if no asbestos was located in your building an onsite record of this must be kept so that tradespeople and staff are able to examine it before commencing works in the building (for example prior to fit outs).

The responsibilities as to who is responsible for asbestos safety have also  broadened. Previously it had mainly been the responsibility of the building owner to provide a safe building now it is based on two new definitions of responsible parties. These are the Person with Management and Control of a Workplace (PMCW) & Person Carrying out a Business or Undertaking (PCBU)
A PMCW must ensure

  • the presence and location of asbestos or ACM identified at the workplace is clearly indicated; and
  • if it is reasonably practicable to do so, indicate the presence and location of the asbestos or ACM by a label.

A PCBU has the following general duties in regard to asbestos at the workplace and must ensure that;

  • exposure of a person at the workplace to airborne asbestos is eliminated so far as is reasonably practicable; and
  • if it not reasonably practicable to eliminate exposure to airborne asbestos—exposure is minimised so far as is reasonably practicable.

A PMCW where an asbestos register is kept must ensure that the register is reviewed and as necessary revised if:

  • the asbestos management plan is reviewed under regulation 430 (below); or
  • further asbestos or ACM is identified at the workplace; or
  • asbestos is removed from, or disturbed, sealed or enclosed at, the workplace.

A PMCW that has an asbestos management plan must ensure that the plan is reviewed and as necessary revised in the following circumstances:

  • there is a review of the asbestos register or a control measure;
  • asbestos is removed from, or disturbed, sealed or enclosed at, the workplace;
  • the plan is no longer adequate for managing asbestos or ACM at the workplace;
  • a health and safety representative requests a review under subregulation (2); and
  • at least once every 5 years.

If a PMCW relinquishes control they must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the asbestos register is given to the person, if any, assuming management or control of the workplace.

This applies to commercial properties, residential properties such as a body corporate entity who employ workers and thus create a workplace, halls and public buildings as these are also workplaces and private residential property when a PCBU is engaged to carry out renovation or demolition work thus again creating a workplace.

Many new fines and penalties have also been introduced and penalties increased significantly across the entire spectrum of Management of Asbestos in Workplaces.

Initial fines range from $1,250 to $60,000.

Signage & Labelling
The signage and labelling requirements for asbestos in Queensland has always been vague. Now as a minimum you must have signs or notices at the main entrances indicating an asbestos register has been prepared along with a system ( i.e. permit to work or labelling of asbestos containing material as far as practicable).

This recently from the Division WHS Qld:

“Labelling is to be used if reasonably practicable to do so, however signs and work-permit systems can also be used to ensure the presence of asbestos or ACM is indicated. It is not an absolute requirement that all nonfriable ACM be labelled as s.424 if the WHS Regulation is qualified by what is Reasonably practicable” 

Important New Definitions
PCBU: Person Carrying out a Business or Undertaking:
For the purposes of the WH & S Act, a person conducts a business or undertaking:

a) whether the person conducts the business or undertaking alone or with others; and
b) whether or not the business or undertaking is conducted for profit or gain.

A business or undertaking conducted by a person includes a business or undertaking conducted by a partnership or an unincorporated association.

If a business or undertaking is conducted by a partnership (other than an incorporated partnership), a reference in this Act to a person conducting the business or undertaking is to be read as a reference to each partner in the partnership. A person does not conduct a business or undertaking to the extent that the person is engaged solely as a worker in, or as an officer of, that business or undertaking.

An elected member of a local authority does not in that capacity conduct a business or undertaking.

The regulations may specify the circumstances in which a person may be taken not to be a person who conducts a business or undertaking for the purposes of this Act or any provision of this Act.

A volunteer association does not conduct a business or undertaking for the purposes of this Act.

In this section, volunteer association means a group of volunteers working together for 1 or more community purposes where none of the volunteers, whether alone or jointly with any other volunteers, employs any person to carry out work for the volunteer association.

There is a four page explanatory guide on this definition available from Safe Work Australia’s website.

PMCW: Person with Management and Control of a Workplace: means a person conducting a business or undertaking to the extent that the business or undertaking involves the management or control, in whole or in part, of the workplace but does not include:

a) the occupier of a residence, unless the residence is occupied for the purposes of, or as part of, the conduct of a business or undertaking; or

b) a prescribed person.

The person with management or control of a workplace must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the workplace, the means of entering and exiting the workplace and anything arising from the workplace are without risks to the health and safety of any person.

Reasonably Practicable: means that which is, or was at a particular time, reasonably able to be done to ensure health and safety, taking into account and weighing up all relevant matters including:

  • the likelihood of the hazard or the risk concerned occurring
  • the degree of harm that might result from the hazard or the risk
  • what the person concerned knows, or ought reasonably to know, about the hazard or risk, and ways of eliminating or minimising the risk
  • the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk, and
  •  after assessing the extent of the risk and the available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.

There is a 6 page explanatory guide on this definition available from Safe Work Australia’s website.

This article has been produced for King & Co Property Consultants by Asbestos Audit Queensland, they can help with your compliance with the new inspection or updating an old asbestos register to comply with the new requirements, contact them today on (07) 5549 2550 or 0407 756 440  - www.asbestosaudits.com.au

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