Asbestos is a known carcinogen and is the word used to describe a group of six naturally occurring mineral fibres, which belong to two groups:
Group A: Serpentine Group – comprised of only chrysotile (white asbestos)
Group B: Amphibole Group – comprised of anthophyllite, amosite (brown asbestos or grey asbestos), crocidolite (blue asbestos), tremolite, and actinolite.
Long viewed as one of the most versatile and inexpensive minerals because of its flexibility, strength, insulation from heat and electricity, chemical inertness and affordability, asbestos was often the first and only choice.
This versatility made asbestos an attractive product for many industries and according to the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, Australia was one of the highest users of the product in the world (per capita) up until the mid-1980s. Approximately one third of all homes built in Australia contain asbestos products. This widespread use of asbestos in building materials and homes has left a deadly legacy of asbestos material.
Asbestos containing materials (ACM’s) are categorised as friable and non-friable. Non-friable asbestos, where it is mixed with other materials like cement, is the type most commonly found in our built environment. Friable asbestos is more likely to become airborne. Both friable and non-friable asbestos pose a significant health risk to all workers and others if the materials are not properly maintained or removed carefully.
In the built environment, potential health risks are posed where there is:
- the presence of ambient levels of asbestos
- weathering of ACMs
- the presence of damaged ACMs
- building and/or maintenance work involving ACMs and
- demolition and/or removal of ACMs.
The risk of exposure from the built environment differs from project to project and site to site, but asbestos has the potential to impact the entire Australian community so when removing asbestos it’s critical that the correct training has been undertaken.
Specific training requirements for asbestos work, in addition to the general training requirements, are required as part of a primary duty of care which means the company or business must provide information, training and instruction on how to remove and work around asbestos.
Employers or businesses and others who carry out removal work, or may come into contact with asbestos, must complete asbestos awareness training.
If loose fill asbestos insulation or naturally occurring asbestos is found at a workplace, you must provide training on how to identify and manage the associated risks and hazards.
Asbestos removal training for workers
Workers must complete a specified VET course before carrying out asbestos work and if you’re a worker who supervises asbestos removal, there is additional training required.
If you are already a licensed asbestos removalist, it is occupational health and safety law to provide information and training to asbestos removal workers to make ensure work is carried out in accordance with the asbestos removal control plan.
The licences are broken down into categories and include a Class A asbestos removal licence, which allows a licence holder to remove friable asbestos and non-friable asbestos and asbestos contaminated dust.
A Class B asbestos removal licence allows a licence holder to remove non-friable asbestos and ACD associated with the removal of non-friable asbestos.
Training records must be kept while the workers are carrying out the asbestos removal work and for a further five years after the worker finished. It is a legal requirement that training records be readily accessible at the asbestos removal area.
Under the Work Health Safety (WHS) Regulations set out in the training and competency requirements for asbestos assessors, asbestos removal workers and supervisors and under the Regulations, two licences have been established.
These are Class A and Class B.
- Businesses with a Class A licence are permitted to remove all types of asbestos, including both friable and non-friable asbestos.
- Businesses with a Class B licence can only remove non-friable asbestos.
The WHS Regulations also create a new license category for asbestos assessors who have the role of carrying out air monitoring and clearance inspections following the removal of friable asbestos.
In addition to this requirement, Safe Work Australia has developed two model Codes of Practice to provide practical guidance for persons conducting a business or undertaking who have duties under the WHS Act and WHS Regulations. These model Codes of Practice are: How to Safely Remove Asbestos and How to Manage and Control Asbestos in the Workplace.
It is a mandatory requirement of Safe Work Australia and its affiliated state and territory organisations to have attended and completed a registered training course in the removal of asbestos.
AlertForce is a recognised RTO and offers Class A, Class B, Supervisor and Assessor asbestos removal courses in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth. Check our website for other states and territories. For more information visit: https://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/asbestos-awareness/