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Safe asbestos assessment and removal is a top priority for many around Australia, but homes and businesses in Queensland will soon benefit from an all new asbestos management strategy that promises to be more comprehensive and rigorous than ever.

Called the ‘Statewide Strategic Plan for the Safe Management of Asbestos in Queensland’, the strategy was officially revealed earlier this month by Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Jarrod Bleijie. He states the move will help to achieve safer workplaces, homes and communities across the state.

“Right now, the handling of asbestos complaints and issues is administered by four different State Government departments, 73 local councils and numerous other government agencies,” Mr Bleijie said in an April 3 statement.

“Our new strategy will cut through the confusion and bureaucracy by creating a clear set of responsibilities.”

This involves workplace incidents being under state government jurisdiction while problems in private residences will be handled by the relevant local council.

“A simple agreement over who does what clears the way for faster, more effective responses and that’s just one piece of our overhaul,” Mr Bleijie said.

The strategy hinges on a whole-of-government approach to tackling the issue, which means that local government, industry, workers, organisations and the community at large will all need to work together effectively to make Queensland a safer place.

There are three direct areas of focus outlined in the strategy. The first aims to put in place policies that will minimise the risk of asbestos exposure, while the second looks to provide “seamless and integrated” government service delivery in terms of asbestos removal and management.

Last but not least, the third area of focus centres on raising awareness in the community and improving education about the risks of asbestos and how they can be avoided. As with any hazard in the workplace or community, being up to date and informed about the issue as a whole can go a long way towards reducing the inherent dangers. That’s why asbestos awareness courses are vital in ensuring safety.

The strategy is the Queensland government’s latest step towards reaching more people about the dangers of asbestos. Along with the Statewide Strategic Plan, the government has also developed a range of educational materials, tools, short films and more.

A significant part of their efforts is the film ‘Losing Breath: The Adam Sager story’, which details the real experiences of one Queensland family. The film focuses on Adam Sager, an Australian who died from mesothelioma at the age of 25 after having been unknowingly exposed to asbestos at 18 months. The condition is an aggressive type of cancer that affects the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen, and it is the most serious type of disease related to asbestos.

Now his family have partnered with the Queensland government in a push to educate more people about the risks of exposure, in the hopes that it will inspire others to be more vigilant about their efforts to protect themselves and those around them.

The history of asbestos use in Queensland

The use of asbestos as a building material has been documented all over Australia, especially in the period between the 1940s and late 1980s. The substance was both mined and manufactured and it was used in a variety of residential, building and commercial products.

After 1990, however, the likelihood of any building materials containing asbestos is significantly lower as it was around this time the dangers became more well known. It was officially banned from use across the country from December 31, 2003.

In the past, Queensland construction projects and companies made widespread use of the material. It was thought to be advantageous for its low cost and sustainability in the face of the area’s climate, so it was used in everything from vinyl flooring, cement sheeting, cement pipes and gutters, gaskets and fire door insulation.

People are at risk of exposure to asbestos fibres when materials containing the substance are disturbed or moved. Unfortunately, this can happen through a range of regular maintenance or renovation activities such as drilling or surface preparation. It’s essential to know how to reduce the risk of asbestos exposure and if necessary, how to identify and remove the materials safely.

Removing asbestos containing materials should only be carried out if the site is likely to be damaged during renovations or is in poor condition. It should only be removed by people who have had the appropriate training and know how to operate the necessary equipment.

To find out how you can get the necessary training to assess and remove asbestos in the workplace, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

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