Asbestos removalists presentation

In May 2017 presenters from both WorkSafe and the Health Department  delivered an information session on asbestos health risks, the relevant legislation, and some common issues that arise in relation to asbestos removal.

Part one - Asbestos removal WorkSafe requirements - Sally North - WorkSafe

Welcome to WorkSafe WA’s asbestos removal presentation.  We will talk about asbestos health risks, the relevant legislation, and some common issues that arise in relation to this sector.

Health risks associated with asbestos include asbestosis, a type of scarring of the lung, lung cancer, which is the same type of cancer you can get from smoking, and mesothelioma, cancer of the lining of the body cavities, and this can occur 20 to 45 years after exposure.

Internationally there are estimated to be 100,000 per year from asbestos exposure, so it's still a big issue internationally.  In Australia we have around 600 mesothelioma deaths a year, and around 125 asbestosis-related deaths a year.  It’s hard to estimate the lung cancer deaths because it is a common cancer, and there are other causes of that.

A  lot of people get concerned that a single fibre might cause them an asbestos-related disease, however, there is a background level of fibres in air, and everybody has some exposure, so everybody has already had exposure, depending on their age, to thousands, and indeed millions of fibres as a background level.

Respirable fibres are the fibres that we are most concerned about in terms of asbestos-related disease.  These are the very tiny fibres that can penetrate to the deepest part of the lungs.  If you look at the illustration here of the human hair, and the tiny little mini beads that are showing there.  Those are given as an indication of the size of a respirable fibre, so you can see that they are much, much smaller than a hair, and they are invisible to the naked eye, but they are the type of fibre that causes disease, and they are the ones that we need to eliminate exposure to as far as practicable.

This is a risk diagram from an organisation called EnHealth, a group of Health Departments nationally in Australia.  It shows how the general public has a very low risk of asbestos-related disease as they are exposed to a very low background level of fibre in air, and it then explains different risk situations, for example, a home renovator who isn't choosing safe work methods may be at a medium risk of asbestos-related disease, and a builder or tradesperson, or another person that works with asbestos-containing materials from time to time, if they aren’t using a safe work method they may in fact be at a high risk.

In WA we use the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.  These apply in most WA workplaces, however, they don’t apply to minesites, Commonwealth workplaces, or offshore petroleum and oil.

We refer in the regulations to NOHSC Codes of Practice for safe removal of asbestos and management of control of asbestos.  We don’t use the more recent Safe Work Australia Codes.

Asbestos registers are required at workplaces where there may be asbestos in the building, and these are basically an identification document prepared by a competent person that shows where asbestos materials are thought to be in that building.  So it’s really important to have a look at those before doing work at those workplaces to make sure that any likely asbestos materials are identified and a safe work method is used.  They’re not normally available for home situations.

The types of asbestos removal licence in WA include an unrestricted licence.  Now this licence is required to remove nay quantity of friable asbestos, so such removal needs to be done by either the holder of an unrestricted licence or a person employed or engaged by such a person, and in accordance with the Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos.

For removal of more than ten square metres of non-friable asbestos a person must have either a restricted licence, or an unrestricted licence, or it can be removed by a person who’s employed or engaged by such a person, and it must be done in accordance with Part 9 of the Code of Practice.

For non-friable asbestos removal less than ten square metres, a licence is not required for removal at a workplace, but the work must be done in accordance with Part 9 of the Code of Practice for Safe Removal of Asbestos .  And just a reminder, these are all workplace requirements.

The Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestosincludes the required planning and documentation.  Now this is basically reviewing the job, thinking about the hazards that might occur during the job, whether they’re asbestos related, or whether there are other hazards such as the risk of falls or electrical hazards associated with the job, and documenting in a brief format what those hazards are and what the safe work method is that’s going to be used to manage those hazards.

The Code of Practice also contains information on putting in place appropriate boundaries, security and signage, and choosing the correct methods of removal.  It talks about using wet methods where practicable, using PVA coating as an alternative to wet methods, and choosing tools that create minimal dust, so generally manual tools.  Certainly no high-speed tools.

It also outlines some other requirements which are listed there including protective equipment, air monitoring, decontamination and cleanliness, waste disposal, the use of negative pressure for friable asbestos, and clearance protocols.

As outlined in the Code of Practice for Asbestos Removal, the minimum requirement for a respirator for asbestos removal is a Class P2 particulate.  Now this can be disposable as shown on the slide, or it can be reusable.

The Code of Practice also specifies a full-length cover-all, and as it’s construction work, safety boots are normally required.  Depending on the risk assessment for the work you may also need safety glasses and gloves.

WorkSafe is often asked about clearances and air monitoring.  Air monitoring during asbestos removal is not mandatory for non-friable asbestos removal, but if the work is in a sensitive location it is advisable.  It is mandatory for friable asbestos removal.

At the end of the job, it is mandatory for a clearance by an independent person to be done for friable removal work, and this involves a visual inspection, and air testing.  This is again not mandatory for the non-friable removal work but in some cases it is strongly advised.

In any event, we strongly advise that the client and the removalist do a joint walk through at the end of an asbestos removal job to ensure that they are on the same page about the cleanliness of the workplace, it should, of course, be visually clear of asbestos, and if the client has any issues, if they see anything of concern, it's best dealt with immediately and we feel that doing this walk through will prevent a lot of concerns being raised with us or with other regulators.

Where licensed asbestos removal is done, there's a requirement that a copy of the licence is available onsite, and also a copy of both relevant Codes of Practice.

Asbestos dust, we've got a regulation requiring that no person in the asbestos work area should be exposed to asbestos dust.  This is achieved using suitable wet methods, using wet methods, low breakage methods, and suitable tools in conjunction with using the appropriate personal protective equipment.

At the end of the work, the regulation requires the workplace being left in a clean and safe condition.  This can be done by ensuring any asbestos waste has been properly wrapped and contained, the work area has been either wet wiped and the rags not reused, or it can be vacuumed with as asbestos-rated industrial vacuum, and as such it will be left in such a state that the dust can’t be dispersed.

Asbestos waste must be disposed of in accordance with Part 11 of the Code of Practice for Management and Control of Asbestos in Workplaces, and this specifies heavy-duty waste bags, or heavy-duty sheeting used to wrap the material, this should be thoroughly taped and needs to be labelled with an asbestos caution.  Alternatively drums or bins lined with plastic can be used, and the material needs to be taken as soon as practicable to an asbestos waste facility which are listed on Department of Environment Regulation website, or in the Asbestos Safety National website.

WorkSafe’s approach to compliance, generally, and in relation to asbestos removal is that firstly we look to encourage people to comply, help educate them as to the requirement as we’re doing this presentation, and to assist people to comply.

However, we do then have the option to do improvement or prohibition notices where we’ve done an inspection and some compliance issues have been identified.  An improvement notice provides some time to achieve compliance, and a prohibition notice requires that an activity has to be stopped because it involves a serious and imminent risk.

And prosecution is available in serious situations, and whilst it’s less common than the other methods there, it does happen and it has been done in relation to asbestos.

Some common issues that we see and that we hear about in relation to asbestos removal include inadequate marking of site boundaries, or not using a fence where a fence is called for.  Also not having a Safe Work Method Statement or not having a Safe Work Method Statement that’s actually suited to the particular job, not using wet methods in cases where it’s practical to use wet methods, or not using PVA in circumstances where PVA is appropriate, and situations where breakage hasn’t been minimised, so where people have been dropping sheets or breaking sheets or snapping sheets off.

It’s very important that asbestos removal is planned from the beginning of the job to minimise soil contamination.  So have a think at the start of the job how that can be achieved, is it possible to lay down sheeting, or if it’s something like a fence, obviously that’s in the ground already but it’s really important that it’s all removed as part of the removal job, so inspection of the area where the sheet was in the ground needs to be conducted.

The work area must be left visually clean at the end of the job, and as I mentioned earlier, WorkSafe highly recommends a joint inspection with the client at the end to confirm it's visually clean. 

If there are any fragments as a result of the asbestos removal job, they should be able to be emu picked, just collected up and disposed of with the asbestos waste and the area raked to make sure there's no more pieces just under the surface.  However, if you get a situation, whether it’s from removal or whether there's historic contamination and there seems to be a more widespread problem with fragments of asbestos, it might require further investigation, and the Department of Environmental Regulation and the Department of Health should be notified of these situations.

Other concerns and issues that come up, sometimes people are just using the wrong asbestos removal Codes.  The National ones, by the way, can be used as a guide.  They’re not the Codes required under WA law.

We also get concerns from neighbours.  Neighbours do like to be informed of asbestos removal works so that they can close their doors and windows along that side of the house.  This isn't mandatory under WA legislation but it certainly is good practice, and we encourage you to let the neighbours know of this kind of work.

Also asbestos removal training, as you know if you’ve done it, is very much focused on asbestos removal.  It is not significantly focused on asbestos identification.  There are other training courses and qualifications that go into asbestos identification in more detail, and where there's an identification issue, we do recommend that people get a sample tested where needed, or they consult with somebody that’s had specific training in identifying asbestos, and sometimes this is someone like an occupational hygienist that’s had experience in this area.

Sometimes people are using the wrong licence holder, for example, this illustration shows low density asbestos fibre board which is classified as friable, and you can see with the penetration there, and it's quite a soft material, and this requires an unrestricted licence holder.

People might report asbestos hazards to WorkSafe and they commonly do.  WorkSafe considers and prioritises this information.  Some of that does result in a visit or other follow-up action, and WorkSafe takes action accordingly if any breaches are identified.

Local Government officers can’t enforce the WorkSafe legislation, however, they can enforce the Health Asbestos Regulations which include some general duties around safe asbestos use.

Other concerns that WorkSafe’s had have been about demolition being done and asbestos pieces left on site.  It’s always a big concern for people.  Asbestos sheets that have been wrapped but not yet disposed of, and we do expect removalists to dispose of them as soon as practicable.  It might not be the same day, but as soon as practicable after they’ve been removed we expect them to be taken to a disposal facility.

Excessive breakage, not using a wet method, not having the appropriate licence or not wearing correct protective equipment are other common concerns people raise with us.

If you have any doubts about the safe work methods that you should be using, or any questions about compliance, please feel free to call WorkSafe or have a look at our website.  Thank you. 

Part two - Asbestos removal WorkSafe audit requirements - Denise Rowling - WorkSafe

My name if Denise Rowling, I am the Principal Audits and Special Investigations Officer from WorkSafe.

My role is to ensure that all restricted and unrestricted asbestos licence holders are complying with the conditions imposed on the licence by conducting regular audits.  I'm going to provide you with information regarding the audit requirements today.

Just going through the outline of what the presentation will be, we’re going to cover the legislation, the audit intervals, the conditions imposed on the restricted and the unrestricted asbestos licences, the documentation required for audit purposes, and information that’s contained on the WorkSafe website to help you in complying with these conditions.

The legislation, it's the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996.  WorkSafe is the Western Australian licensing authority that issues the licences to perform asbestos removalist work as prescribed in these regulations.

Regulation 5.45E is the conditions that are imposed on the licence which is subject to what the Commissioner deems fit and endorses on the licence.  This is a minimum requirement for you to comply with when conducting your asbestos removal work.

The audit and compliance investigators carry out audits of WorkSafe’s licensed asbestos removalists to verify the licence holders are complying with the conditions noted on the reverse side of the licence.  The licence holder is audited at least once during the period of their licence for the restricted and the unrestricted asbestos licence.  You will be audited once every three years, and if that asbestos licence holder holds a demolition licence, then you will be audited once every two years.

The conditions imposed on the restricted and the unrestricted licence holder requires the licence holder or the authorised person to sign a declaration that they will comply with the conditions imposed.  The conditions do vary between the two licence holders.  The first slide here shows the conditions for the restricted asbestos licence where all removal of asbestos-containing material is carried out in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984, the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996, and in line with Part 9 of the Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos.  It is a requirement that when you conduct this removal work that you have a copy of this Code of Practice with you.

It is a condition that any person that is assisting in the removal of the restricted asbestos for non-friable that a record of training is provided to each person who carries out that asbestos removal work, and that the information is kept for a minimum of five years.

For each job where you remove asbestos you need to have a copy of the Safe Work Method Statements for each job, and again, this is required to be kept for a minimum of five years.

A copy of the receipt issued by the waste disposal facility, so all receipts must marry up to the Safe Work Method Statement, and must be produced at the request of an auditor. 

The holder of the restricted asbestos licence will report to WorkSafe Commissioner any asbestos removal incidents where a person was or likely to have been exposed to asbestos fibres at levels above the exposure standard.

The holder of the restricted asbestos licence is subject to auditing and must cooperate with officers of WorkSafe including answering questions and allowing full access to all documents relating to the carrying out of asbestos removal work, which includes but is not limited to, the documents referred to in conditions 2, 3, and 4.

If the licence holder is a company and the applicant or nominee is no longer engaged with the company the Commissioner must be advised immediately.  The licence holder must apply for the approval of another applicant or nominee, and any variations or additions to these conditions as made by the WorkSafe Western Australian Commissioner are complied with.

The conditions on the licence for the unrestricted licence is very much the same with regards to the restricted asbestos licence.  There are a few areas that have been included and are on top of the ones we have just mentioned.

So if there is the unrestricted asbestos licence and you’re going to be removing friable asbestos, you are to notify the WorkSafe Western Australia Commission seven days prior to the commencement of the friable asbestos material being removed.  You need to have a copy of the notification referred to in condition 2 and that is kept for a minimum of five years.

A copy of the asbestos removal control plan as required by the Code of Practice is the same as a Safe Work Method Statement.

The holder is also required to report to the WorkSafe Western Australia any asbestos removal incidents where a person was, or likely to have been, exposed to asbestos fibres at levels above the exposure standard.

A copy of the asbestos clearance certificate issued by a competent person is required to be kept.  It is in part with condition 1, and that must be kept for a period of five years as well.

The receipts are required, and you are required to show that you have notified the Chief Operations Officer of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services of all intended friable asbestos removal work from buildings.

The holder of the unrestricted asbestos licence is subject to auditing and must cooperate with the officers of WorkSafe including answering questions and allowing full access to documents.  If the licence holder is a company and the applicant or nominee is no longer engaged with the company the Commissioner must be advised immediately, and the licence holder must apply for the approval of another applicant or nominee.

The unrestricted asbestos licence holders must, within seven days, notify the WorkSafe Commissioner of the engagement event and termination event of employees or contractors who work with friable asbestos-containing material under regulation 5.46.  Of course any variations or additions to these conditions as made by the WorkSafe Western Australia Commissioner are complied with.

The documentation required for the restricted asbestos licence, so when an auditor contacts you for an audit of your documentation, what they are wanting to see if that you have access to a copy of the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission’s Safe Removal of Asbestos at the workplace.  This can be in either an electronic or paper form.

If you have anybody that’s assisting you in the asbestos removal, you need to have documents relating to the training of personnel in safe methods of asbestos removal, and these must be maintained for every person listed and registered in your Safe Work Method Statement.  A copy of a Safe Work Method Statement is required for each asbestos removal job and must be maintained for a period of five years, and with that Safe Work Method Statement you have to have evidence of the disposal of the asbestos material from each job in accordance with the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission’s Asbestos Management.  Again, all this documentation should be retained and should be kept for a minimum of five years.

The unrestricted asbestos licence holder, the documentation requires is again the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission’s Safe removal of Asbestos, and the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission’s Management of Asbestos, a copy of the asbestos removal control plan which also covers the Safe Work Method Statement, the notification to the WorkSafe Western Australia Commissioner of the proposed asbestos removal work, and the approval along with any conditions that may be imposed for each specific job.

You must have a register of the names of all persons carrying out the asbestos removal work on each job, you need to be able to provide evidence that the fire and emergency services have been notified of all proposed asbestos removal from buildings, and the evidence for the disposal of asbestos materials from each specific job in accordance with the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission’s Asbestos Management.

There's plenty of information on WorkSafe’s website in order to help you comply with the Safe Work Method Statement.  There is the Occupational Health and safety subbie pack which has a Safe Work Method Statement, a register, decontamination, hazards, and risk control identifiers for you so that you see whether it's a low, a medium, or a high risk to the work that you’re actually doing.

There are checklists available on the website as well, one is the asbestos management checklist, which goes through the management and control of the asbestos removal.

There's also the removalist checklist on WorkSafe’s website, and this will actually assist you in developing your Safe Work Method Statement for areas that you may not initially consider.  WorkSafe auditors are available to assist you with a Safe Work Method Statement.  Although we will not write them for you we can certainly assist you in being compliant in this area.  The information will be provided to you at the end of these presentations.

Other available information from our website is the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission’s Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos, the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission’s Code of Practice for Asbestos Management, and these can be downloaded from either our WorkSafe website, or the Safe Work Australia website.

Part three - Asbestos removal and disposal and public health - Pierina Otness - Department of Health

Good afternoon, everybody, my name is Pierina Otness and I work with the Department of Health, Environment Health Directorate and I’ll be talking about asbestos removal and demolition and disposal with respect to public health issues.

So here we are in the Environmental Health Directorate out and about at some contaminated sites, As you can see the problem associated with asbestos and public health and environmental contamination is quite significant.

There are a number of public health issues associated with asbestos.  We know that it's widespread in buildings and structures across WA, so quite prevalent.  It is a politically and publicly sensitive material.  The expectation that people have, once a removal job has been completed, is that there is no asbestos-containing material remaining at the site. 

It is controlled by a number of legislative tools, and you’ve heard about one of those already, the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations, and I know you’re probably all very familiar with those.  There are a couple of other pieces of legislation you need to be aware of, both the Contaminated Sites Act, and the Health Asbestos Regulations, which I will talk about.

So a lot of the issues that come up with regard to those regulations are as a result of non-compliances with the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations and removal requirements, and these non-compliances can lead to issues associated with onsite contamination that comes from poor removal or from inadequate disposal, which we’ll talk about.

This slide shows the results of an asbestos survey that was conducted with Local Government across WA looking at the issues that they face.  So looking at the slide, the graph, almost half the issues they deal with are associated with demolition and removal work.  That might be people calling up about how to go about demolition / removal of asbestos-containing material, it might be complaints about work that is happening, it might be neighbours concerned about demolition and removal work that is happening close to them.

In addition, 25 percent of complaints were associated with dumping, usually illegal dumping.  So these are the majority of concerns that are being dealt with or addressed by a Local Government with regard to asbestos.

The contributors to contamination with regard to asbestos in the environment are listed on this slide.  One of the important contributors is not identifying building asbestos materials prior to the removal work.  That might be because the material hasn’t been identified during building inspections, it might not be visible, and hasn’t ended up on the register.  It might be because it’s a private residential property and there's no requirement for private residential properties to have inspections or registers.  There are some Local Governments that ask for it to be done prior to demolition, but it doesn’t always happen.

Poor asbestos removal practices can lead to contamination, so this is from where care is not taken during the removal process and it’s not done in compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Code of Practice for Removal.  Material is not all removed adequately, or broken as it’s removed or spread as it’s removed. Poor removal clean-up practices where materials, structures  or soil left behind is not properly cleaned up.  Limited site debris checking which has already been discussed. Making sure that you check the whole site for any fragments or other material that has been left behind. 

Burial due to soil disturbance at the site, illegal dumping issues, and there may be some issues that are legacy issues, not associated with removal work but from past use of asbestos, and that might include issues like buried construction waste or historical, uncontrolled fill on the site.

We’ve heard already about the Occupational Health and Safety legislation requirements, so the two Acts, as I mentioned I would be talking about today are the Contaminated Sites Act 2003, which is administered by the Department of Environment Regulation, and the Health Asbestos Regulations which are administered by the Department of Health.

Since the Contaminated Sites Act, there's been a large increase in identification of contamination that’s come from activities like demolition, removal and illegal waste disposal.  This has been because there's been increased infill and redevelopment in both metro and regional locations, so those historical legacy issues are coming up where asbestos materials are being found from previous, either infill or construction waste, or previous dumping.

Those sites are then reported as contaminated under the Contaminated Sites Act and have to go through an onerous process, in compliance with the Contaminated Sites guidelines, with regard to investigation, assessment and management.

Other sources of contamination are material that’s still in use but is deteriorating, and there may be fragments or pieces on the ground that have the potential to be spread and result in soil contamination.

These contamination issues present a potential risk to public and a source of community concerns and anxiety, definitely.  Both with finding the contamination in the first place, as I said, it’s a very sensitive issue, particularly in WA where many people know family members or friends who might have contracted an asbestos-related disease.  And also with regard to people not really wanting to purchase a property with a memorial on the title where asbestos has been found and managed in situ on the site.

Under the Contaminated Sites Act the sites are required to be reported and classified under the Act.  The reporting and classification of a site under the Act though can be very easily prevented by making sure that there is compliance with existing occupational safety and health legislation and that the control measures associated with the removal and clean up following removal actually happens.

So the non-compliance is actually a significant contributor to site classification.  Many of the sites we see that have been reported and reviewed by the Department of Health are as a result of non-compliance with removal / demolition work.

The owner or responsible party needs to take action - where a site may be contaminated and report it as contaminated under the Contaminated Sites Act.  The kind of action that’s required involves really lengthy and expensive investigation and clean-up costs.  So you can essentially turn a removal job that costs in the thousands or ten thousands to pretty much leading into the 200, 300, in some cases $600,000 required to decontaminate the soil or manage in situ.

A memorial on the title will also remain with restrictions on the use of the site if any asbestos material is left buried at the site.  Which is not desirable for many developers.

The other set of regulations you all need to be aware of are the Health Asbestos Regulations.  Under these regulations the authorised officer in the Local Government Authority, usually the environmental health officer, can administer the requirements under the Health Asbestos Regulations.

The environmental health officer, or authorised officer, plays an important role in responding to complaints that are received with regard to removal and demolition work, undertaking that initial risk assessment and advising on appropriate actions. Where they feel it’s necessary and if there's a non-compliance with the occupational safety and health legislation.  They may also alert WorkSafe to what they’ve seen as part of their original risk assessment.

Like WorkSafe, EHOs and Department of Health like to take an advisory, cooperative approach with anybody that they might be discussing or meeting at a site.  Obviously asking people to do the right thing or asking about what is happening in order to address the neighbour’s complaints if that might be why they’ve attended.  So it’s really useful to cooperate with them in these circumstances, give them a copy of the Safe Work Method, show what is happening with regard to control measures that are taken at the site so that they can be assured that the work that is being done is being done in accordance with the Code of Practice for removal.

It’s important to know what the requirements of the Health Asbestos Regulations are; these regulations restrict the sale or supply of asbestos-containing material, other than for disposal.  It also restricts the use of material other than for maintenance or repair, removal for disposal, and you also can’t change the position of any asbestos-containing materials, so you can’t remove or take down a fence and put it in another location.  Once it’s taken down it must be disposed of.

During the disposal it requires that asbestos-containing materials be separated from other material and be wrapped in plastic, very much like the occupational health and safety requirements.

It is an offense to store, maintain, break, repair, damage, remove, cut, move, disperse, or use of asbestos-containing materials without taking reasonable measures to prevent asbestos fibres entering the atmosphere.  This is a requirement of the Health Asbestos Regulations which you all need to be aware of because preventing asbestos fibres entering the atmosphere is something that can come into play with relation to public health where there aren’t appropriate dust control measures at the site.  So where there's a release of dust off the site, an environmental health officer will have authority to act under the Health Asbestos Regulations.  And this does happen. 

We had a lot of dry weather in Perth lately and an environmental health officer investigated a complaint from removal work where they weren’t taking any measures to control dust from the site, and he took a sample from a neighbour two doors away from a removal job that was happening and did find asbestos in the dust sample that he took.  So just be aware that it's really important to make sure that you’re controlling dust at site; to make sure that you’re not getting fugitive dust emissions outside of the boundary of the work that you’re doing.

The reasonable measures that you need to take under the Health Asbestos Regulations are very similar to those you need to take with regard to occupational safety and health.  There are a number of measures that are specifically listed under the regulations, under the health regulations, so that’s to use water or other means of controlling dust, using non-powered hand tools; it does allow power tools under the same conditions as the Safe Removal Code of Practice.  Using an approved vacuum or wet cleaning for clean up.  Not using any high-pressure water or compressed air.  The photo that you see on the slide there is following roof cleaning with a high-pressure water hose, and the contamination that has happened in the surrounding soil as a result of that.

Also no breaking or abrading, as far as reasonably practical, of asbestos cement sheeting when it's being removed, and disposal in accordance with the Environmental Protection Regulations.

Environmental health officers requested the Department of Health to do  something about the penalties under the Health Asbestos Regulations because they weren’t particularly high penalties and would need the Local Government to take anybody who was non-compliant to court.  Under the current legislative framework that we have, Department of Health looked to increase the penalties as far as we could under the existing legislative framework.

These new penalties have come into place, and began on the 24th of January 2017.  In addition to new penalties, there's now the ability for the authorised officer in Local Government to give out an infringement notice, and this is to help deter all these unlawful or non-compliances that are happening and reduce public health risks associated with the mishandling of asbestos materials.  Now this applies to both commercial and non-commercial activities, and it applies to residents doing their own sort of asbestos removal work as well.

The penalty can be up to $10,000 currently, and if the offence continues an additional daily penalty of up to $1,000 will be applied.  Where a Local Government authorised officer suspects that a person is creating a risk to the public’s health through incorrect management and disposal, they do have the power to issue an infringement notice.  Non-compliance can lead to referral to a court for hearing or enforcement action.

Regardless, prosecution might still be taken where there's a serious threat to public health and safety, where there's a repeat offence, or where there's been reckless disregard of the requirements under the Health Asbestos Regulations.  So that might be that they decide the situation’s serious enough to go straight to prosecution rather than handing out an infringement notice.

The new Public Health Act 2016 is now in place.  Under this Act there’ll be a whole lot of new regulations written, and when those new Health Asbestos Regulations are in place, there’ll be an ability to apply even higher penalties.  So this will allow for maximum penalties for individuals up to $50,000, for a body corporate up to $200,000, and the daily penalties will increase for an individual up to $10,000 a day, and for a body corporate up to $50,000 a day.  And obviously if it's a commercial operation that’s responsible for the non-compliance, they’re going to be closer to the higher figure than where the individual is sort of a member of the public.  So these new penalties are something to bear in mind.

Like has been said by the previous speakers, we don’t like to be policemen or regulators, we prefer to work together with removalists and residents to make sure that everybody is using these [OP1]  reasonable measures and is dealing with and managing asbestos materials adequately, but where necessary these penalties can be applied.

Building departments also have a role to play within local authorities.  They often put conditions on demolition permits that are issued within their local authority area.  These kinds of conditions can include the requirement for a hazardous material inspection which would include inspection for asbestos-containing material.  They would also in some cases point out the requirements with regard to legislation and Codes of Practice that need to be followed so they’ll highlight the safe removal Code of Practice needs to be followed and remind people, particularly residents, of the legislation that’s in place where they may not actually be aware of it.

They do, in some cases, ask removalists to provide the Safe Work Method, and also in some cases, to provide the disposal receipts following the completion of the removal work and the disposal of any asbestos-containing material.

Environmental health officers are always a good point of contact, particularly in regional areas when you’re doing removal work.  It’s probably even a good idea to contact them if you’re doing any kind of removal works so that they’re aware that it’s happening in their area.  They can advise you on such matters as the Health Asbestos Regulations, other legal requirements that might be in place within that local authority and what you need to do with regard to those requirements.

So what should you do in order to make sure that you’re compliant with public health legislation?  Any time that there's any demolition or asbestos removal work at a property it is really important that no suspect material remains on the site afterwards.  So you need to ensure that you comply with all the existing legislative requirements, and that you meet the expectations regarding the classification of contaminated sites.  So a few fragments left behind is not really meeting the expectations of the clients, of the public, and can potentially lead to somebody questioning whether or not the site has further contamination and needs assessment and investigation under the Contaminated Sites Act.  So you don’t really want to leave any questions hanging when you leave a site.

You need to remove any fragments, any dust or debris in accordance with the legislation and the Safe removal of Asbestos Code of Practice.

You need to keep a record of the details of the removal and disposal: the location; where the removal occurred; the type and quantity of material removed make sure that that quantity matches the disposal receipt quantity; provide a copy of the disposal receipt; make sure you have procedures and control measures available; and preferably also take photographs of the removal work being done in accordance with the legislation.

This is really important information to give to your client or to the property owner as it provides them with evidence, sufficient evidence down the track, if they want to redevelop the property or if there are any questions asked with regard to potential contamination.  It provides them with the evidence that the work has been done in an adequate manner, and it prevents that need to do lengthy and costly investigation down the track where this information isn't available.

If you need further information on soil investigation and clean up you can look at our guidelines which are on our website.  Other information is also available on our website including what to do in case of fire damage and how to clean up following fires and other disasters, and there's also other issues addressed.  So please have a look at our Public Health website and have a look at the information that’s available.

Here is our contact information so you can contact the Environmental Health Hazards Unit with regard to any asbestos-related issues at the Department of Health, or as I mentioned previously you can contact the Local Government authority.  And this is the contact for the Department of Environment Regulation who administer the Contaminated Sites Regulation.

Thank you for your time.


Last updated 01 Dec 2023

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