If you are a person with management or control of a workplace you are required to:
- identify all asbestos or ‘asbestos containing material’ (ACM) at the workplace
- manage the risk of exposure to asbestos at the workplace
- prepare, maintain and review an asbestos register for the workplace
- prepare, maintain and review an asbestos management plan for the workplace.
The Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA) cover the management of asbestos and associated risks including the identification of asbestos, workplace asbestos registers and asbestos management plans. The regulations cover workplaces and does not apply to any part of residential premises that is used only for residential purposes.
You must engage a competent person to identify asbestos in the workplace. A competent person with regard to asbestos identification is someone that has acquired through training, qualification or experience the knowledge and skills required to accurately identify asbestos or ACM in the workplace.
You will not need to engage a competent person if:
- you assume that asbestos is present and take the appropriate precautions
- it is naturally occurring asbestos (e.g. asbestos encountered during mining or quarrying)
- you have 'reasonable grounds' to believe that asbestos or ACM is not present at the workplace.
When considering whether there are ‘reasonable grounds’, you should assess:
- the age of the building and any plant
- are all the buildings, plant and equipment constructed or installed after 31 December 2003?
- the material or products used in constructing the building or plant
- asbestos was used in a wide range of products (e.g. asbestos-cement sheeting for interior/exterior walls, ceilings and roofs, gaskets, asbestos backed vinyl or vinyl tiles; sealants and mastics)
- whether there is likely to be plant or equipment or other item brought into the workplace that may contain asbestos
- any previous asbestos report by a competent person.
If asbestos is assumed to be present at the workplace, it is taken to have been ‘identified’ at the workplace. Where asbestos has been identified you must prepare an asbestos register and a written asbestos management plan.
In the case of unidentifiable materials, you must assume that the material is asbestos if:
- if you reasonably believe that the material is asbestos or an ACM
- part of the workplace is inaccessible to workers and is likely to contain asbestos or an ACM.
If you are not sure whether a material contains asbestos, you may choose to have a sample of the material analysed by a NATA laboratory accredited for asbestos testing. For a list of South Australian NATA-accredited laboratories, visit the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) website and enter ‘asbestos’.
Go to find and identify in the workplace to see the types of asbestos containing products which could be present at the workplace
Indicating the presence and location of asbestos or ACM
You must clearly identify and indicate the location of all asbestos and ACM. Where it is reasonably practicable to do so, the material must be indicated via a label.
See Appendix C of the Code of Practice: How to manage and control asbestos in the workplace for examples of warning signs and labels.
Assessing the risk of exposure
If asbestos is in good condition and left undisturbed, it is unlikely that airborne asbestos fibres will be released into the air and the risk to health is low. Therefore, it is usually safe to leave it labelled and undisturbed, and review its condition over time.
However, If the asbestos has deteriorated, been disturbed or if asbestos dust is present, the likelihood that airborne asbestos fibres will be released into the air is increased. If there is a risk of exposure to airborne asbestos fibres, you must control the risk (e.g. by removing the asbestos). In circumstances where asbestos is removed, you need to revise your asbestos register.
If you have the management and control over a workplace you will need to manage the risks associated with exposure to asbestos and asbestos-containing materials. This will require the adoption of a risk management approach that includes:
- Identifying asbestos at the workplace, labelling it and recording it in an asbestos register.
- Assessing the risk of exposure to airborne asbestos.
- Eliminating or minimising the risks by implementing control measures.
- Reviewing control measures to ensure they are effective.
Refer to the Asbestos safety checklist and the Code of Practice - How to manage and control asbestos in the workplace for detailed information on managing the risks in your workplace.
When choosing the most appropriate control measure, the following hierarchy of controls must be considered:
- eliminate the risk (eg remove the asbestos)
- substitute the risk, isolate the risk or apply engineering controls (eg enclose, encapsulate, seal)
- use administrative controls (eg safe work practices, labelling)
- use PPE.
A combination of these controls may be required in order to adequately manage and control asbestos.
There are a number of measures used to control the risk to workers and others associated with asbestos removal, including:
- limiting access, displaying signs and installing barricades
- decontamination procedures
- respiratory protective equipment (RPE)
- air monitoring.
Reviewing control measures
You must regularly review all implemented control measures and, if necessary, revised to make sure they work as planned and to maintain a safe work environment.
An asbestos register is a document that contains the details of any identified asbestos in the workplace, including areas where asbestos is assumed to be present. It is used to inform relevant persons of the presence and location of asbestos in the workplace.
You must keep an asbestos register at your workplace unless:
- your workplace is a building that was constructed after 31 December 2003, and
- no asbestos has been identified (or assumed to be present) at the workplace, and
- no asbestos is likely to be present at the workplace at any time (such as through the temporary use of vehicles, plant or equipment that may include asbestos).
You must also keep an asbestos register at your workplace if:
- your workplace is a building that was constructed before 31 December 2003, even if:
- no asbestos has been identified
- no asbestos is likely to be present at the workplace at any time (including on a temporary basis).
In the case where the building is constructed before 31 December 2003 and there is no asbestos or ACM present, the asbestos register will state that "no asbestos or ACM is identified or present at the workplace".
You are not required to prepare an asbestos register if one has already been prepared for the workplace, however the asbestos register must be maintained.
Information required in an asbestos register
An asbestos register must record:
- any asbestos in the building structures of the workplace
- any asbestos containing materials in the building structures of the workplace
- any asbestos containing materials in plant and equipment (including plant and equipment temporarily at the site)
- any asbestos or ACM likely to be present at the workplace from time to time.
For each instance of asbestos or ACM, the register must record:
- the date on which the asbestos or ACM was identified
- the location of the asbestos or ACM
- the type of asbestos or ACM
- condition of the asbestos or ACM.
Where there is no asbestos or ACM identified, assumed or likely to be present at the workplace, the asbestos register must state that no asbestos or ACM has been identified or is present at the workplace.
Reviewing an asbestos register
You should regularly review your asbestos register to ensure the accuracy of the information contained.
You must review and, as necessary, revise the asbestos register if:
- further asbestos or ACM is identified at the workplace
- any asbestos or ACM is removed from, or disturbed, sealed or enclosed, at the workplace
- there is a review of the asbestos management plan.
You should use the asbestos register review process as an opportunity to walk around the workplace and ensure that the presence and location of asbestos identified on the register is clearly indicated and remains in the condition stated on the register.
An asbestos management plan is a site-specific document that helps a person with management and control of a workplace to manage health and safety risks to workers and other persons arising from asbestos or ACM in the workplace. An asbestos management plan must be maintained by the person with management and control of the workplace to ensure it remains up to date.
You must prepare a written asbestos management plan for the workplace if asbestos or asbestos containing material is:
- identified or assumed to be present at the workplace
- likely to be present at the workplace from time to time.
An asbestos management plan must include:
- the identification of asbestos or ACM
- decisions, and reasons for decisions, about the management of asbestos at the workplace
- procedures for detailing incidents or emergencies involving asbestos or ACM at the workplace
- workers carrying out work involving asbestos.
For example, an asbestos management plan may contain:
- a reference or link to the asbestos register for the workplace and details around signage and labelling of asbestos and ACM
- risk assessments, safe work procedures and identified risk control measures
- a reference or link to the workplace emergency procedures regarding incidents or emergencies involving asbestos or ACM
- information regarding consultation, responsibilities and the provision of information and training to relevant workers and other persons.
The asbestos management plan should also set out clear aims, stating what is going to be done, when it is going to be done, and how it is going to be done. It should include:
- the workplace's register of asbestos
- details of maintenance or service work on the asbestos including:
- who performed the work
- the dates it was done
- the scope of the work
- any clearance certificates
- how people at risk are informed about asbestos in the workplace, the risks they pose and the control measures in place
- decisions about management options and the reasons for these decisions
- a timetable for action, including priorities and dates for reviewing risk assessments and specific circumstances that may affect the timetable
- monitoring arrangements
- the responsibilities of people involved in the plan
- training arrangements for workers and contractors
- a procedure for reviewing and updating the management plan and the register of asbestos, including a timetable
- safe work methods.
See the WHS Regulations for further details.
Reviewing an asbestos management plan
You must review and, as necessary, revise, the asbestos management plan at least once every 5 years. However, the asbestos management plan must also be reviewed and revised when:
- there is a review of the asbestos register or a control measure
- asbestos is removed from, or disturbed, sealed or enclosed at, the workplace
- the plan is no longer adequate for managing asbestos or ACM at the workplace.
Additionally, a health and safety representative (HSR) may request a review of the asbestos management plan if they reasonably believe that:
- any of the above circumstances affects or may affect the health and safety of a member of the work group represented by the HSR, and
- the person with management or control of the workplace has not adequately reviewed the asbestos management plan in response to the circumstance.
You must ensure the asbestos register and asbestos management plan are readily accessible to anyone who may require access to them, such as:
- a worker who has carried out, carries out or intends to carry out, work at the workplace
- health and safety representatives who represent workers at the workplace
- a person conducting a business or undertaking who has carried out, carries out or intends to carry out, work at the workplace (i.e. a contractor)
- a person conducting a business or undertaking who has required, requires, or intends to require work to be carried out at the workplace. (i.e. a principal contractor).
'A worker' who carries out work at a workplace does not need to be a direct employee of the workplace. A workers covers a broad range of people and may include contractors, labour-hire, volunteers.
ABC Pty Ltd owns a shopping centre, which is currently leased to number of commercial tenants. Under the lease agreement, only ABC Pty Ltd is permitted to make changes to the building’s structure unless express approval is granted to a tenant.
ABC Pty Ltd has prepared an asbestos register and asbestos management plan for the workplace. A copy of the register and plan is provided to tenants and workers occupying the property, and a hard copy of these documents are readily accessible to any other relevant person via the central facilities office. Because ABC Pty Ltd has prepared and made available the asbestos register for the workplace, the individual tenants do not need to prepare their own.
Last month, ABC Pty Ltd commissioned a licensed asbestos removalist to remove 25m2 of non-friable asbestos from a vacant tenancy.
XYZ Pty Ltd occupies a tenancy next door to the vacant tenancy. The workers of XYZ Pty Ltd are represented by a health and safety representative, who attends monthly work health and safety committee meetings that are chaired by a representative of ABC Pty Ltd. Workers of XYZ Pty Ltd have complained that they are concerned that the shopping centre’s air conditioning system may have distributed asbestos fibres disturbed by the removal work throughhout the shopping centre, including throughout their workplace.
The health and safety representative notices that the asbestos management plan does not provide any information on how ABC Pty Ltd manages the risk of asbestos fibres being circulated throughout other tenancies while removal work is undertaken. The health and safety representative reasonably believes that the removal of asbestos from the vacant tenancy may affect the health and safety of members of their work group, asks whether the asbestos management plan has been reviewed and revised by ABC Pty Ltd. The representative of ABC Pty Ltd says that they have not reviewed the plan because they have been too busy with other work.
In this situation, the health and safety representative may request that ABC Pty Ltd review the asbestos management plan under Regulation 430(2) of the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012(SA). If this request is made, ABC Pty Ltd as the person with management and control of the workplace must ensure the asbestos management plan is reviewed and, as necessary, revised.