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The use of asbestos in the construction industry was quite common in Australia before the 1990s. Even today, it is a wise precaution to confirm that there are no risks of asbestos exposure at your workplace. Apart from the health risks that may occur due to exposure to asbestos fibres, you have other reasons why you should consider asbestos inspection for your business.

This post will discuss the health risks of asbestos in the workplace, what asbestos inspections entail, and why every business should consider asbestos inspection. You can also get some asbestos safety tips and asbestos safety resources.

Health Risks of Asbestos in the Workplace

The two primary forms of asbestos are bonded or non-friable asbestos and friable asbestos. Bonded asbestos can often be found in vinyl floor tiles, electrical switchboards, and asbestos cement sheets.

Meanwhile, examples of the friable form of asbestos-containing materials include piping insulation and insulation around blowers. Health problems as a result of asbestos in the workplace can come up when there is exposure to asbestos fibres and asbestos products.

These health problems can include lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. This adverse health effect is a significant reason for banning asbestos products since 31 December 2003. Moreover, you must perform an asbestos assessment, survey, or audit on your commercial property if it was built before 2004.

What Asbestos Inspections/Audits Entail

You perform an asbestos audit when you need to check for asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in your building or site. This inspection usually entails assessing the type, location, condition, and potential risks of ACMs.

Who performs asbestos inspections?

You need well-trained and licensed asbestos assessors (LAA) to perform an asbestos inspection. Specialist asbestos survey companies usually employ these assessors.

Types of asbestos surveys

The two types of asbestos surveys include refurbishment or demolition surveys (division 6 asbestos audits) and management surveys (division 5 asbestos audits). You need division 5 asbestos audits if you wish to identify ACMs in a building or site in a bid to manage potential exposure risks.

On the other hand, you can perform a division 6 asbestos audit if your planned work may likely disturb ACMs. This division 6 audit can be performed if you're demolishing, refurbishing, or renovating.

Reasons to Consider Asbestos Inspection

Asbestos has been used as a naturally occurring mineral in many industries for decades. Various older building structures are likely to contain asbestos. It is, therefore, necessary to confirm that your business property does not contain asbestos. Here are some significant reasons to consider asbestos inspection.

Protect your customers

You will be putting your customers and other stakeholders at risk of asbestos exposure if you fail to test your business premises for the presence of asbestos. This is especially true if you have older structures that predate 1980.

Some customers may ingest particles through ventilation systems, and others may start having breathing problems. As a result, it is an essential protective measure to perform asbestos testing and asbestos removal if necessary.

Protect your business investment

Performing an asbestos inspection on your business property will help you protect your business investments. If you discover the presence of asbestos on your business property and ignore it, you will most likely open yourself up to fines, lawsuits, and criminal penalties.

On the other hand, if you change your building materials and structure, you will be protecting your investment. Likewise, you can have asbestos safely removed and thereby lower risks of accidental damages or uninsured costs if you perform asbestos inspection on time.

Prevent unnecessary exposures to asbestos

Asbestos inspections and surveys are beneficial if you have a commercial building project or want to perform refurbishment, demolition, or renovation work. Findings from such thorough and intensive asbestos audits and surveys can help you to redesign your work and thus avoid unnecessary exposures to asbestos. At the same time, you would provide environmental protection for every stakeholder.

Eliminate present and future asbestos health risks

Asbestos poses serious health and psychosocial hazards if it is ingested or inhaled. Asbestos exposure can also cause health-related diseases such as lung cancer. As such, you need to take measures such as asbestos inspections, asbestos testing, and asbestos removal as necessary for your business.

This is how you can identify potential health risks from asbestos exposure and take the necessary steps to protect your employees' health. In another vein, you will also comply with relevant asbestos health and safety regulations and laws. At the same time, the prospects of managing the risk of potential legal actions are improved when you conduct regular asbestos health screenings.

Protect your business against lawsuits

Your business can become liable for damages if you do not mitigate issues regarding asbestos exposure and asbestos-related injuries. Specifically, you may have to pay huge fines and incur other legal expenses. This is a significant reason to set up and implement an asbestos management plan and put contingencies to avoid asbestos-related legal incidents.

What is an Asbestos Management Plan?

An Asbestos Management Plan (AMP) is an easy-to-understand document that details a record of who bears responsibility for managing asbestos at your workplace. It also contains information on asbestos control and management. It is essential to get outside help if you have asbestos-containing materials that are not in good condition. Licensed Asbestos Removalists (LAA) can professionally handle asbestos removal.

Asbestos Registers in Managing Asbestos

Using asbestos registers and asbestos management plans are two key ways to responsibly manage asbestos in the workplace. The risk of asbestos exposure due to accidental disturbance is very high for persons working on or close to asbestos-containing materials if there is no asbestos register.

As a PCBU, you must include all asbestos under your management or control in the asbestos register. This includes caulking, building fabric, sealant, equipment lifts, membranes, and dust or debris associated with asbestos on site.

Likewise, your asbestos register should contain a record of all asbestos or ACM identified or considered likely to be present. As a PCBU, you must provide asbestos registers to licensed asbestos removalists, health and safety representatives, and those who intend to work on your site.

Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations

WHS laws require individuals conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to manage the risk of asbestos exposure. Such legislation exists in every state and territory in Australia and requires that you have competent persons who practically identify all workplace asbestos or ACM.

In addition, you need to keep a copy of the asbestos management plan as well as the asbestos register onsite and always available to workers. An example of such a law is the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017 (WHS 2017).

Some Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulations also require a PCBU to hire an LAA for asbestos identification, asbestos auditing, and preparation of asbestos registers and asbestos management plans. Further information on WHS laws can be found on the Safe Work Australia website.

Asbestos Safety Tips

  • There must be adequate safety training on asbestos risks, and those working on asbestos must be asbestos aware when performing drilling activities.
  • It is vital to set up safety committees, and relevant parties must possess appropriate risk work licences to perform demolition or renovation activities on older properties.
  • You and your personnel should not perform drilling without putting on personal protective equipment (PPE) or respiratory protective equipment (RPE).
  • Proper asbestos management or control involves always keeping asbestos registers up to date.
  • You need to do appropriate emergency planning to deal with situations when workers must cease operations to mitigate asbestos issues better.
  • It is best to use licensed asbestos removalists to seal, remove, or dispose of contaminated asbestos waste.

How to Make Your Business More Asbestos-Aware

You may opt to make your employees more asbestos-aware by providing asbestos training courses for them. Such courses can include subjects on asbestos awareness, silica awareness (such as respirable crystalline silica), and asbestos management plans.

Dealing with asbestos in the workplace

  • The first step in dealing with the suspected presence of asbestos is to act as if it really is asbestos and be cautious.
  • Then, you need to confirm that the material contains asbestos. Scientific testing is the best way of identifying asbestos or ACM.
  • Licensed asbestos assessors can help you get potential asbestos samples tested at an accredited laboratory.
  • There are safety alerts regarding the risks of using Near Infrared (NIR) handheld analysers, as they are not an ideal testing method for asbestos-containing materials.
  • Employees can notify their employer or health and safety representatives if they think a material contains asbestos.
  • A subsequent option is to notify your local Work Health and Safety regulator, especially if you suspect the presence of disturbed asbestos.
  • It is essential to immediately get health care and social assistance if you have been exposed to asbestos.

Asbestos Safety Resources

Asbestos safety

SafeWork NSW has a video on Safe Handling and Controls – Asbestos Safety for Tradies. You can also check out South Australia's Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012.

The well-known Work Health and Safety Act 2011 contains guidelines on excluding strata title bodies corporate from being a PCBU. You can find more information on the body corporate page.

Code of practice

Safe Work Australia offers a Model Code of Practice for managing and controlling asbestos in the workplace. You can refer to this resource for guidance on asbestos safety, including warning signs and labels.

Asbestos awareness

WorkSafe Tasmania's Be Asbestos Aware is great for detailed information brochures on the automotive industry.

Asbestos assessors

Contact information on asbestos assessors and asbestos removalists according to your state or territory is available on the Asbestos Safety Concerns page.

Asbestos removal

This is a resource for finding licensed asbestos removalists. You can find a disposal facility from the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency regarding asbestos removal and disposal.

Another great resource is the Asbestos Management Handbook for Commercial Properties by Asbestos Awareness.

More resources

Choosing the Right Asbestos Inspection Company

  • Ensure the asbestos auditing company has licence holders who can conduct asbestos audits.
  • Also, consider their reputation and experience.
  • They should be able to provide reports outlining safety management recommendations for your workplace.
  • Asbestos inspection companies should have rigorous technical safe work procedures, including ISO standards for inspection, laboratory analysis, and quality.

Services of asbestos inspection companies

Risk assessments for hazardous stuff

Asbestos inspection companies have a degree of competency in safely handling hazardous chemicals and materials. Asbestos inspection companies can also provide asbestos compliance risk assessments for demolition and refurbishment work.

Air monitoring and health monitoring

Health monitoring helps you to confirm the effectiveness of control measures and to check for the need for more effective control measures. You can get an asbestos inspection company to perform asbestos fibre air monitoring before employees start working with or removing asbestos.

Ultimately, they may recommend that employers arrange a health monitoring appointment with medical practitioners if workers are exposed or suspected of being exposed to asbestos.

Hire Asbestos Removalists for All Your Inspections

From this post on why every business should consider asbestos inspection, you may have realised asbestos inspections are not only for companies dealing with asbestos in import and export products.

It is necessary to inspect your business property for asbestos, especially if it was built before the 1990s. A licensed asbestos removal contractor can get this done quickly and help put your mind at ease.