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Management of Asbestos in the Workplace: Precise Competency Checks

01 July 2022

Asbestos in the workplace has been a focus in South Australia (SA) during the first half of 2022. 

In March 2022, SafeWork SA commenced a statewide campaign, focusing on the identification and management of asbestos in the workplace. The emphasis was on the key regulatory requirements to identify asbestos within an asbestos register, to have an asbestos management plan in place, and the requirement to review the asbestos register prior to refurbishment or demolition.  

Also, in May 2022, SafeWork SA cancelled the asbestos removal licence of a Class A asbestos removal and demolition contractor, and suspended the licence of a Class B removal and demolition contractors following failures in their duties under the WHS regulations relating to the removal of asbestos. 

The campaigns and action resulting from breaches in the regulations will greatly assist raising awareness, thus will assist in reducing the risk of asbestos exposure and creating a safer workplace for all. There are key steps that can be taken to ensure asbestos in the workplace is effectively managed from a business owner or employer perspective.  

1. Competent LAA & LARC

A business must have a competent contractor – a Licensed Asbestos Assessor (LAA) or Competent Person (depending on state/territory) and a Licensed Asbestos Removal Contractor (LARC) when inspecting, assessing and removing asbestos on-site. 

The removal of asbestos, and the verification that is required when the removal works are completed, are both important steps in the management of asbestos within the workplace. It is essential that the LAA operates independently from the LARC to ensure there is no conflict of interest when it comes to the clearance inspection. It is also important to ensure the LARC and LAA/Competent Person have experience in the type of works being undertaken. 

When working with a new LAA and/or LARC, it is important to ensure they are competent by conducting a rigorous checking process. This means that compliance is met, and quality protocol is followed and upheld. 

This process could include: 

  • Checking the relevant regulator websites for licensing details
  • Asking for references from previous similar works 
  • Reviewing the CVs and training of personnel 
  • Requesting example Asbestos Clearance Certificates from the LAA
  • Requesting example Asbestos Removal Control Plans from the LARC. 

2. Asbestos Registers & Asbestos Management Plans (AMPs) 

An up-to-date comprehensive Asbestos Register and Asbestos Management Plan (AMP) must be compiled for workplace buildings, depending on the age of construction, in most states and territories. 

Ensure your surveyor is competent by conducting checks, such as: 

  • Asking for references  from previous works in similar types of buildings 
  • Reviewing the CVs and training of personnel
  • Asking for example reports 
  • Asking accreditation questions: 
    • Is the business you're working with NATA Accredited for inspections? 
    • Is the analysis of samples certified by a NATA Accredited laboratory approved to identify asbestos? 


All states and territories registers must be reviewed at least every 5 years. If any asbestos has been removed, remediated or changed condition since the last register review, the asbestos register and AMP may need updating sooner. This also includes if any additional asbestos has been identified since the last register review, if there are any gaps, inaccessible areas or items presumed to contain asbestos, or if the AMP is currently under review.  The asbestos register must be kept up to date.

This recommendation differs between states, such as: 

  • QLD - Was the building constructed prior to 31 December 1989? 
  • NSW/SA/ACT/NT/WA - Was the building constructed prior to 31 December 2003? 
  • VIC - No date specified - Could your building contain asbestos? 

If asbestos is identified in a workplace, a written AMP must be prepared and kept up to date. The purpose of the AMP is to detail how the identified Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) will be managed. 

Is your AMP up to date? 

  • All states and territories - AMP must be reviewed at least every 5 years 
  • Has any asbestos removal or remediation work taken place? 
  • Is the plan adequate for managing the ACM at the workplace? 

3. Reviewing the asbestos register prior to demolition or refurbishment 

Most compliance (Division 5) asbestos registers will not be comprehensive enough for demolition or refurbishment and must be meticulously reviewed to reflect the proposed project. A destructive/invasive (Division 6) asbestos audit may be required. Generally, an asbestos register is prepared based on the inspection and sampling of readily accessible building materials during normal occupation of a building. 

Refurbishment or demolition works are highly likely to uncover or access normally inaccessible areas of a building. It’s important that prior to these works, the asbestos register is reviewed and revised to ensure it is adequate for the scope of the works.

Check if the current register needs to be revised prior to demolition or refurbishment: 

  • Is there a current register in place?
    • If the answer is no, one needs to be prepared 
  • Check if there are "no access areas" in the current register 
  • Will the proposed refurbishment works involve disturbance of the building fabric? 
  • Check for assumptions in the current register 
  • Have samples been analysed in a NATA accredited laboratory approved to identify asbestos? 
  • Are there any notes on the NATA endorsed sample report that a material of unknown type was identified?
    • This may require further analysis 
  • Check all gaps in the register have been closed. 

4. Training & Awareness 

Asbestos awareness training is a key step in helping to prevent exposure to asbestos by accidental disturbance of Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM). If workers can recognise suspected materials, know potential locations where ACM may be located and understand the risks associated with asbestos, they are far more likely to stop and ask the question...does this contain asbestos?  

Learn in depth about asbestos labelling and signage requirements and more in Greencap's Online Asbestos Awareness Training course

Read a testimonial of Greencap's Asbestos Awareness Training here: Kane Constructions: Training the next generation in the construction industry

Asbestos awareness training is a good fit for: 

  • Anyone working in the construction or mining industries 
  • Project managers for building projects 
  • Property or facilities managers 
  • If the building being worked in does/may contain asbestos or ACM 
  • If the worker or business are involved in landscaping or civil works. 

Greencap proudly donates $5 from every course enrolment towards Reflections, a charity that supports those affected by asbestos-related disease through creating community, providing caring support and fostering connections.  


How Greencap can help 

Greencap has built a wealth of experience and expertise since its beginning as an asbestos consultancy in 1984. Partnering with clients, Greencap assists in the development of a range of systems and risk control strategies to meet compliance requirements, provide effective solutions to manage asbestos and identify hazardous materials risk issues in the workplace. 

Greencap can assist with a wide range of tasks with your project, from the initial identification of hazardous materials, through to risk assessment/management advice, project management of removal works and air monitoring/clearances.

 

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