A new year starts, and a new wave of asbestos stories hit the headlines. Asbestos discovery and its safe removal continue to be a major issue – and sometimes a major expense when it’s badly handled – for councils, businesses, tradies and individuals. And with every new headline comes the reminder that education and training around identification and eradication of asbestos remains key to keeping people safe. Without the knowledge and the know-how, the stories will continue to be frustrating and tragic. But let’s set the tone by taking a look at a few recent happier stories:
Big fine for asbestos dumper caught red-handed
First up, three cheers for the NSW Environment Protection Authority officers who nabbed a man unloading about 10 tonnes of asbestos-contaminated soil at a property in Wallacia. The EPA officers just happened to be conducting a campaign to prevent illegal landfilling at the time and videoed the load being dumped. No surprises the tip truck driver didn’t want to stop for a chat but with his number plate now on video, it was easy to track him down. $7500 later, chances are he won’t be taking that risk again. Talk about wrong place, wrong time!
Oz Day honours for long time asbestos awareness campaigner
It was great to see asbestos crusader, Serafina Salucci receive a Member in the general division of the Order of Australia on in the recent Australia Day honours. Ms Salucci was diagnosed with mesothelioma 11 years ago and has worked tirelessly to raise awareness on the dangers of asbestos exposure. She played a key role in petitioning the Australian Government to set up the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency in 2013.
New asbestos safety campaign launched in Victoria to keep tradies smart and safe around asbestos
Just last week, WorkSafe Victoria has launched a campaign targeted at making tradies more alert to the presence and dangers of asbestos. While many tradies are aware of how dangerous asbestos can be, they don’t necessarily know how to identify it and because so many tradies are involved in drilling, sawing, sanding and demolition, they are particularly vulnerable to it.
These are all encouraging stories and strategies that demonstrate how fundamental education around safe asbestos handing and removal remains. All the good intentions in the world won’t make up for the dangers attached to unsafe removal of asbestos. And not knowing is not a good enough excuse – not given the huge media exposure and legislative changes that have occurred over the last couple of decades. This goes for individuals as well as businesses. When it comes to asbestos identification and removal, shortcuts are not an option. Get educated, get trained and do it right.
If you’re a homeowner
Just steady on before you go all DIY on your new “renovator’s dream” home. Just because you’ve seen a few episodes of The Block and Backyard Blitz doesn’t mean you should go wielding a sledgehammer straight away on that old shed down in the back yard or on the walls and ceilings in your soon-to-be dream home. If it was built or last renovated before the mid-1980s, then chances are it’s riddled with asbestos. And you won’t be able to tell just by looking. This handy guide will help you figure out what you might be dealing with and how to proceed.
If you’re a business
Think about what’s a stake. This is not the time to do things on the cheap. There are strict laws regarding management of asbestos in a workplace and if you’re the one in charge then chances you know your obligations under the Work & Health Safety Act 2017 are to ensure the health and safety of your workers. If asbestos has reared its ugly head in your workplace or you even suspect it might be present, then act now and get a team trained and ready to go.
If you’re a tradie
Don’t take the risk. Remember, just because you can’t see asbestos, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Again, if you’re dealing with a property built before the mid-1980s then in all likelihood asbestos will be present somewhere in the structure. Yes, it’s your employer’s responsibility to make sure you are properly informed, trained and supervised but it’s also your responsibility to take reasonable care of yourself and make sure you follow all procedures regarding identification and removal of asbestos.
Education and training is crucial to the responsible management of asbestos. If you’re keen to get your asbestos know-how on, then give us buzz so we can talk through what your asbestos education and training options are or take a look at what’s on offer here and do your bit to make sure the headlines stay positive.