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Businesses in every industry have the duty to protect employees and the surrounding community from dangerous exposure to asbestos. Many buildings in Australia still contain some asbestos, and business owners need to understand the danger of that material. The mere presence of asbestos is not necessarily a danger or health risk, but there is a danger if the material is not well maintained and eventually removed securely.
Every business needs to ensure the following actions are covered at all times for the protection of everyone in the workplace:
- All asbestos within the workplace is identified and recorded in an asbestos register
- Maintenance workers are aware of materials or locations that contain asbestos
- Areas of the building containing inaccessible asbestos are identified and well maintained
- Immediate action is taken in the event asbestos materials are disturbed in any manner
If you know your office is not doing enough to ensure asbestos fibres are not released into the work environment and inhaled by workers and visitors, the following actions should be taken immediately:
- Determine the date that the building was constructed
- Learn the law in regards to maintaining a building with known asbestos content in your region
- Hire a licenced asbestos removalist or assessor to inspect the building and identify asbestos and asbestos-containing materials
- Create and maintain an asbestos registry for the office or building
- Hire an asbestos removalist to remove all asbestos that is in poor condition or may pose a health risk to workers in the future
Note that it is not always necessary to tear out walls, roofing or flooring in order to remove asbestos materials immediately. If the materials are in good condition and are not likely to break, crumble or otherwise destruct in the near future, then they may not need to be removed at this point. However, someone does need to keep a close eye on those areas of the office to ensure the materials remain in good condition and present no risk to workers.
When it is time to renovate or material needs to be disturbed for some reason, a licenced removalist is required. The removalist will safely remove and dispose of the asbestos so that it does not present a danger to anyone in the vicinity of the building. It is unsafe to remove more than 10 square metres of non-friable asbestos materials without a licenced professional overseeing the work, and it is illegal to remove any friable asbestos without a licenced professional.
Has your office taken any of these steps to protect employees from asbestos exposure? If not, it is time to take action. The first step is to identify asbestos materials already contained in the building so that those materials can be monitored and properly maintained or removed. The next step is the creation of an asbestos register so that all areas of the building containing asbestos can be closely monitored and handled appropriately when it comes time for renovation or other construction projects within the building.
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