The reminder we needed that asbestos safety matters more than ever
Asbestos management training is essential for a whole array of reasons: it helps businesses fulfil their legal (and moral) obligations, it keeps workers safe and protects the community, it promotes a culture of safety which can help businesses attract and retain staff, and it gives businesses a competitive edge.
Businesses that neglect to use good practise when dealing with asbestos and fail to fully educate and train their staff, pay the price. Unfortunately, they also force their workers and the community to pay a price by perpetuating the horrendous legacy of asbestos in Australia.
In a recent case, for example, land owners is NSW are being warned to be wary of accepting landfill after the disappearance of 600 truckloads of debris containing asbestos from the Green Square Sydney development site. Investigators have tracked down some of the 17,000 tonnes of asbestos-contaminated waste but the location of much is still unknown. NSW Police believe some of the waste is on a rural property north of Sydney. “We spend ages working to get this property,” said the owner, Soraya Van Tilborg. “It all looked very legitimate, everything seemed in order.” She says she doesn’t even want to imagine what her children and family may have been exposed to.
Asbestos-containing materials can only be legally disposed of at EPA licensed landfill facilities. “But the high cost of removal of asbestos-containing materials and charges to legally dispose of it places a huge responsibility on those operating in the industry and the ‘rewards’ for misusing that responsibility are irresistible to some,” said SafeWork NSW licensed asbestos assessor Tony Milligan.
But consider this cost instead: the EPA’s Mark Gifford said the illegal dumping of asbestos could be punished with penalties up to $5 million in addition to prison sentences. This current case, believed to be linked to organised crime, was one of the largest ever investigated by the EPA. “Waste crime is a significant issue and one that we have taken seriously enough to develop and implement a waste crime taskforce in the EPA,” said Gifford.
So you might be thinking this all sounds like an episode of The Sopranos and wondering what organised crime got to do with your legit business. Well hopefully nothing at all. But the point is, crimes around asbestos dumping are being committed by both large-scale fraudsters and small-scale operators. Whether the illegal dumping is the action of a vast criminal network or the action of a couple of developers trying to cut costs, it’s still a crime. Recent cases show that the EPA and other authorities are deadly serious about catching and punishing those who play hard and fast with asbestos.
Perhaps it’s time to remind ourselves of just why the reckless management of asbestos is taken so seriously. And there’s no better reminder than Australia’s asbestos ground zero – the West Australian town of Wittenoom, where asbestos was mined from the 1930s until the 1960s. Only three residents remain in what is effectively now a ghost town with a tragic history of asbestos-related illness and death. In August this year a memorial was unveiled in Perth to honour the 4000 West Australians who have died from asbestos-related illnesses. The Chief Operating Officer of Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia, Melita Markey, said that Western Australia had the highest incidence of malignant mesothelioma cancer in the world and the memorial served to honour those who had died but also to remind us of how important it is to monitor and regulate today’s work environments for safety.
Asbestos safety in workplaces is the key to keeping workers and communities safe and the most effective way to promote that safety is via education and training. Whether your business just needs its employees to be asbestos aware or requires people with the skills to assess and remove asbestos, AlertForce can provide the training you need. Our asbestos management courses cover everything you need to know – including how to safely and legally dispose of asbestos so that you don’t end up the subject of an EPA investigation, in court for breaking the law or, or handing over hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for breaching the legislation. Be asbestos aware and asbestos safe. Help break Australia’s terrible legacy of asbestos-related illness through education and training. Give us a call today so we can set you up with the courses that meet your needs.
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