Asbestos – Your Responsibilities as a Business Owner to your Staff and Customers

Asbestos is essentially a group of minerals that has thin microscopic fibres. Since these fibres are heat, fire & chemical-resistant & do not conduct any electricity, it has been mined & used widely in a range of industries including construction. It is now known that asbestos causes mesothelioma cancer, and is banned in excess of 50 countries including Australia & its use has also been dramatically restricted in many others.

Though asbestos is no longer used in Australia, it continues to exist in older installations and structures. But this material is hazardous to the health, and the Australian government has set certain stringent guidelines about asbestos management, transport, storage & disposal. Business owners are required to follow certain norms with reference to asbestos handling and disposal.

Asbestos Removal – Purpose

The purpose is to ensure that individuals at a workplace, including common areas of any strata title-body corporate, aren’t exposed to any airborne asbestos fibres. In areas where the risk of exposure can’t be entirely eliminated, the risk of exposure has to be minimised as far as reasonably practicable. It has been proved that inhalation of asbestos fibres causes asbestosis, pleural thickening & potentially fatal mesothelioma.

The Responsibility of a Business Owner regarding Asbestos

  • A business-owner/undertaking, such as a strata-title body corporate, must not direct/or allow any workers or employees to handle/perform work/disturb asbestos-containing materials, unless they are qualified and have been appropriately-trained
  • The work is also required to be permitted under the State legislation (such as encapsulating the friable asbestos-containing materials)
  • For work that involves asbestos, the owner/manager of the workplace is finally responsible for the health & safety of his workers. It is the responsibility of the person who conducts a business/undertaking to ensure that all asbestos-containing materials in that workplace be identified by a certified & competent person
  • In addition, where asbestos/asbestos-containing materials are identified, its required to be included on the asbestos register in that workplace
  • The asbestos register has to be kept up-to-date. It should specify the type, location, & condition of the asbestos/asbestos-containing material, as well as the date when the material was identified
  • A comprehensive asbestos management has to be prepared. This plan is also required to be kept updated and regularly reviewed. This ensures the information that it holds is current. It also has to consider the removals/renovations that have been undertaken in the workplace
  • The asbestos management plan has to be readily accessible to workers & any other persons performing work in that workplace

Asbestos – The Penalties

All these aspects become important in view of the fact that employees and other workers work on the property on a regular/ daily basis. In case the norms are not followed, and an individual in that workplace develops mesothelioma or asbestosis, the business owner is liable to pay a very hefty fine (that runs into thousands of dollars). Individual business owners as well as strata title-bodies are liable to pay fines in situations such as this.

Asbestos – Other Repercussions

In the event that a business owner fails to comply with the existing guidelines and an employee suffers a serious illness/injury/death, the former will have to pay even heavier fines and/or a jail sentence. These are only the statutory penalties. In case there is a civil litigation, the penalties will be far higher. In addition to all of this, it is important for business owners to ensure that workplace safety is maintained, not just for their employees and workers, but for their customers and clients too.

Asbestos – The wider Considerations

Since customers visit a commercial space only on occasion, their exposure to asbestos in that space is not generally as impacting as it is to someone who works there. However, ensuring that a place of business is safe and healthy for customers and clients is one of the basic requirements of running any commercial enterprise. With all these factors in mind, it is important that business-owner engage a company that is certified to conduct an asbestos survey on the property.

If asbestos is found to be present there, an asbestos register & asbestos management plan will have to be created by a competent person. RO Steel Roofing has been providing excellent and industry– leading asbestos removal services to businesses across various industries. For more information, call RO Roofing on (02) 9660 5937

Thanks so much for reading,
R.O. Steel Roofing
(02) 9660 5937