Safe assessment and removal of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials is no simple task. It requires proper training, careful planning and strict adherence to legal requirements. The penalties for failing to comply with those requirements can be substantial as some companies and individuals have discovered through their reckless flouting of the law and of public safety.
This month has seen the NSW Environmental Protection Authority commence prosecutions against a Sydney man who has been charged with three offences in relation to a property near Spencer on the Hawkesbury: land pollution (including asbestos), unlawfully transporting waste and using a property as a waste facility without authority. Each offence carries a maximum fine of $250,000. “The NSW EPA takes these types of matters seriously,” said the EPA’s Chief Environmental Regulator, Mark Gifford. “Our environmental laws are in place to help protect the environment and the community.”
In May we saw serial asbestos offender Dib Hanna gaoled on multiple charges relating to the illegal transportation and dumping of asbestos. He is the fist person in NSW to be imprisoned on such charges and was also ordered to pay to publicise his crimes in the press. The authorities were sending a message loud and clear to anyone considering flouting the rules when it comes to asbestos management.
In July this year, Dial A Dump Industries was fined $23,000 for failing to adequately cover asbestos waste at its Eastern Creek landfill in 2016 . Moreover – like Hanna – it was ordered to pay the $25,000 legal costs of the Environmental Protection Authority and to publicise its conviction in Inside Waste magazine. Another strong message from the EPA that they are not mucking around when it comes to punishing inadequate treatment of asbestos waste and will keep a close eye on known offenders like Dial A Dump.
Operators like Dial A Dump are experienced in the field and would be aware of what the requirements are. So why take such a risky shortcut? Was it the poor call of an overstretched team manager? An attempt by senior management to cut costs? Whatever the reason, it could have been prevented with more vigilant adherence to the rules regarding asbestos removal. When proper asbestos awareness, assessment and removal training is taken seriously by senior management, these kinds of work health and safety failures can be avoided. It’s not only larger organisations that are in the EPA’s sights. Individuals and small operators are, under the law, obliged to be just as thorough in the managing of asbestos waste.
And it’s not just the EPA you’ll have breathing down your neck if you mess with asbestos. Taking proper care with asbestos assessment and management and providing the necessary training to deal with it is a key responsibility of a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) as defined by the Work Health and Safety Act. The WHS Act requires that, as far as is reasonably practicable, that workers and others are not to be put at risk from work carried out. Moreover, the PCBU is to ensure that workers are not to be exposed to airborne asbestos and that the asbestos exposure standard must not be exceeded. Officers, such as company directors, are responsible for carrying out due diligence to make sure such care is being taken which includes making sure the right kind of training and education is being provided to help eliminate or minimise those risks.
There are different levels of training required for different kinds of work involving asbestos. For example, a plumber or electrician may need to remove small amounts of non-friable asbestos in the course of their work on a property and are permitted to do so without a Class A or B licence – but they must be trained in the identification and safe handling of asbestos before doing so. Our nationally accredited Asbestos Awareness training course covers this requirement.
A Class A or B licence is mandatory for anyone removing friable asbestos or larger quantities of non-friable asbestos. Moreover, a licenced asbestos supervisor must be present or readily available for to oversee such work – we offer supervisor training here. The regulator must be notified of the works being carried out and asbestos waste must be disposed of at an authorised site.
Assessing, removing and disposing of asbestos waste is no walk in the park but with proper training, the wellbeing of workers and the community can be protected and your profits can stay in your pocket instead being lost as payment for fines. So be the good guys every time and get your asbestos training up to date.
Give us a call to discuss asbestos assessment, removal and supervision training packages today.