In 2011 the federal government issued the Work Health and Safety model legislation and regulations, and began pushing all states and territories to adopt them with the goal to have a uniform set of laws for Work Health and Safety across the country. The aim was to have a uniform and consistent set of laws and regulations making it far easier for businesses working in multiple states and territories to comply with those regulations. With the exception of Victoria and Western Australia (who have now introduced the Work Health and Safety Bill 2014 for public comment), all states and territories have implemented the Work Health and Safety Act and Regulations.

Recently the ACT’s Legislative Assembly have recently passed the Dangerous Substances (Asbestos Safety Reform) Amendment Act 2014 which commences on 1st January 2015. This amendment takes in Chapter 8 of the Work Health and Safety Regulations with adaptation for the ACT.

How will this affect business?

Businesses undertaking work that involves the handling, removal or disposal of asbestos will have to become familiar with the amendments to ensure that their company fully complies with the new requirements from the beginning of 2015. They still are required to follow the Work Health and Safety regulations which set out the context for the management of asbestos involving:

  • the training of workers at risk of encountering asbestos
  • notifying the regulator of asbestos removals
  • health monitoring for workers
  • naturally occurring asbestos
  • stricter requirements for the removal of asbestos and
  • national licensing and competency standards for licensed asbestos removalists and assessors

The ACT Government developed the Work Health and Safety regulations further through the Dangerous Substances (Asbestos Safety Reform) Amendment which requires businesses to ensure they comprehend and apply the following deviations by:

  • requiring all asbestos removal work to be carried out by a licensed asbestos removalist
  • removing the exception in the Work Health and Safety regulations for non-friable asbestos removal not exceeding 10 square meters
  • removing the exclusion on work involving asbestos when the work is only minor, routine maintenance work
  • replacing the term “competent person” with “licensed asbestos assessor” to clarify that all asbestos assessment, clearance
  • inspections and air monitoring must be provided by a licensed asbestos assessor (i.e. from 1 January 2015 a person must not
  • remove asbestos or asbestos containing material from any premises unless the person is an appropriately licensed asbestos removalist) and
  • requiring that a person who manages or controls a workplace, having to assume asbestos is present if an approved warning sign is present

What does businesses need to do?

The Dangerous Substances (Asbestos Safety Reform) Amendment Act 2014 in the ACT will impact individual workers and contractors as well as businesses. Anyone handling asbestos-containing materials or other potentially toxic materials will need to study the new regulations because they may need to complete additional training or secure a license that was previously unnecessary for the tasks they complete in their line of work.

Businesses handling asbestos contracts, utilizing heavy machinery, conducting work in the mines or otherwise completing jobs governed by the work health and safety regulations have hopefully already studied the new laws to determine how they will affect their operations. Some of the changes that some companies may need to implement are as follows:

  • Workers potentially handling materials that contain asbestos may require additional training.
  • All jobs that involve the removal and disposal of asbestos materials must be reported to Work Safe ACT prior to beginning the project.
  • Companies may be required to monitor the health of all workers handling or removing asbestos materials.
  • All workers removing and disposing of asbestos materials will need to complete training competencies and secure a license as trained removalists or assessors.

Notice that there is no longer any room for non-licensed contractors or workers to remove or dispose of materials containing asbestos, and that includes naturally-occurring asbestos. While there was a previous law that confused many businesses regarding their ability to remove small amounts of materials that contain asbestos without a license, that law is being overturned in favour of stricter standards for worker protection against exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos courses are offered online by AlertForce and works as an introduction to this crucial section of work health and safety (WHS) standards. To obtain a basic knowledge of asbestos in Australia and confidently put measures in place to reduce your risks, you should talk to the AlertForce team today.