Since asbestos was discovered to be a dangerous material which could induce health problems it has stopped being used in buildings in the Australia, and was banned in the European Union from January 1st 2005. Inhalation of asbestos spores can lead to serious health complications such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and malignant lung cancer, and it is still unknown how much of the Australia population will develop health problems as symptoms often do appear for many years.
There is debate surrounding whether it is safer to leave asbestos intact within buildings when it has been undisturbed, as it is only when spores are released that it presents a real danger. Attempting to remove asbestos and breaking it up could in fact lead to the dangerous spores being released and causing more damage than had it been left alone.
In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that “the duty to manage is directed at those who manage non-domestic premises: the people with responsibility for protecting others who work in such premises, or use them in other ways, from the risks to ill health that exposure to asbestos causes.” This duty involves calling in asbestos surveyors to find out if there are materials containing asbestos in non-domestic premises, and if so, how much there is.
Managers should presume that materials contain asbestos, unless there is strong evidence that they do not, and they should keep up to date records of the location and condition of any materials which contain asbestos. It is also their responsibility to set out a plan to manage the risks of the asbestos containing materials (ACM’s), and take steps to put the plan into action. Finally, it is the manager’s duty to inform anyone to liable to work on or disturb the materials on their location and condition.
Where ACM’s are found as a result of asbestos surveys, a plan needs to be developed to minimise the risk of any damage or disturbance. In general it is often better to leave any ACM in place, especially if it is in good condition. Any delegated asbestos manager is advised to enlist the help of asbestos consultants for their advice on how best to manage any ACM’s.
Options for asbestos management plan include:
1) Leaving an asbestos containing material (ACM) in place – sealing or repairing it.
2) Managing the contact made with the ACM – ensuring there is an up to date asbestos register or record, giving maintenance employees/contractors appropriate information. Clearly labeling or colour coding ACM’s.
3) Monitoring and re-inspecting – when an ACM is left in place it needs to be monitored to ensure it is not deteriorating. It should be inspected at least once every 12 months.
4) Remedial actions – several options need to be explored before considering removing an ACM such as the skills and professionalism needed to remove it.
Managing the asbestos in a non-domestic building is not a duty which should be taken lightly, but as long as you introduce a steadfast management plan you will not need to be too preoccupied with worry about your employees’ or contractors’ health. Remember to conduct regular asbestos management plan Brisbane surveys and monitor any suspect ACM’s and you should be able to keep any risk under control.