Asbestos study finds trained workers more aware of asbestos risks

A Safe Work Australia report has found that workers trained in health and safety are more aware of asbestos and its dangers

In 2009, Safe Work Australia commissioned the Asbestos Exposure and Compliance Study of Construction and Maintenance Workers. The report findings were published in February 2010 and focused on four trades – electricians, carpenters, plumbers and painters.

This follow-up report reviews the literature on worker safety behaviour and the factors that influence workers’ understanding of the health risks of exposure to asbestos.

In Australia, as a consequence of the high level of asbestos consumption in the past, large volumes of in-situ asbestos are still present in many older buildings and in water and sewerage pipes. Significant adverse health effects, such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis can arise from exposure to airborne asbestos fibres which can be generated when these in-situasbestos containing materials are disturbed. However, safe work practices such as those defined in regulations on management and control of in-situ asbestos can prevent potential exposure to airborne asbestos fibres.

It was unknown whether these safe work practices were being followed in Australia, especially among workers with high potential risk of exposure, such as construction and maintenance workers. This led Safe Work Australia to commission the Asbestos Exposure and Compliance Study of Construction and Maintenance Workers. The study targeted four trades: electricians, carpenters, plumbers and painters. The study was completed in 2009 and a descriptive research report was published in February 2010.

The present report is a follow-up report of the initial descriptive report from the Asbestos Exposure and Compliance Study (the Asbestos Study). The aims of this report are:

  • to conduct a brief literature review of worker safety behaviour models to provide background information on factors influencing worker safety behaviours
  • to examine which factors influenced workers’ understanding of the risk of asbestos, and
  • to examine which factors influenced compliance with safe work practices when working with asbestos containing materials (ACMs).

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