Asbestos Inspections

New work health and safety legislation requires asbestos audits of buildings that are workplaces that were constructed before 2004. It is the responsibility of the person with management or control of the workplace to ensure that asbestos is identified. Material that is suspected to contain asbestos must either be sampled to confirm that it is asbestos or assumed to be asbestos. Analysis of samples must be done by an accredited laboratory.

Auditing, sampling, and labeling must be done by a competent person.
The person with management or control must also ensure that asbestos-containing materials and work areas containing asbestos have appropriate signs and labels.

Do Strata Complexes Need to have an Asbestos Inspection?

The Work Health and Safety Regulations state that where the complex is used only for residential purposes and is never considered being a workplace, then the legislation does not apply and an asbestos inspection is not required.

However, it is now generally accepted that all strata complexes will be a workplace at some stage. Thus the majority of Owner’s Corporations and Bodies Corporate accept the serious safety concerns with asbestos and abiding by the legislation.

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When Should a Strata Complex Obtain an Asbestos Inspection?

Buildings constructed prior to 2004

If the complex was constructed post 2003, then the legislation states that the complex should be clear of asbestos. However, China is exporting to Australia building products containing asbestos due to lax controls. Therefore, although not required by legislation, buildings constructed up to today may in fact contain asbestos.

Queensland Variation

Queensland has made an amendment to the legislation stating the year as 1990 and not 2004. However, this is not to be taken at face value as it only applies to the need for an Asbestos Register, and there are 2 major rules to achieve this exception.

  1. No Asbestos has been identified; and
  2. No Asbestos is likely to be present

Thus the only way to comply to these 2 expectations is to inspect the complex for asbestos

Where Should Asbestos Inspections be Undertaken?

All areas within the complex

Should the Internal of Units be inspected for Asbestos?

The internal ceilings of units may be treated with an asbestos spray for fire proofing and /or sound resistance. Such material is then classified as being a structural component and as such is the responsibility of the Owner’s Corporation and Body Corporate.

This material is highly likely to contain asbestos. The material deteriorates over time and poses a significant risk to the safety of the occupants of the unit.

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How do you identify asbestos?

After reading about asbestos products, you may think they are easy to spot; just look for hairy, fibrous materials, right? Wrong. This is an important task, best left to experts. Lengths of asbestos mineral fibers range from 2 to 5 millimeters, and are barely visible. Processing and bonding fibers into cement and other materials conceals the raw appearance of asbestos, making it impossible to identify asbestos containing materials (ACMs) without magnification and expertise.

You can’t see asbestos in products by just examining with the naked eye. You need a powerful microscope, and expert knowledge of these minerals. In fact, according to the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission, only those trained in identification of asbestos containing materials are qualified to make these determinations.

Sampling

How do you determine if a material contains asbestos? Collecting samples and sending to an approved laboratory is the only way to positively confirm the presence of asbestos. Sampling is a highly specialised procedure, and can disperse asbestos fibers, contaminating the area if not performed carefully.

Asbestos Audit Process

To ensure the highest standard of quality, the asbestos assessment will be performed in accordance with AS/NZS 9001:2000, a quality control standard, as well as international standards for environmental protection and health safety. The asbestos audit is a four-step procedure:

Inspection Process

The asbestos survey will be undertaken by trained, experienced and qualified personnel. All areas of the site will be inspected in detail. Each floor will be separately assessed. Photographic illustration and a detailed description of suspected asbestos materials will be supplied.

Analysis of Suspect Materials

Samples of all suspected asbestos-containing materials will be taken to prove the presence of asbestos. Samples will be analyzed in a NATA-accredited laboratory by polarizing light microscopy in conjunction with dispersion staining.

Result Interpretation

Qualified and experienced professionals, in accordance with the quality management system, will interpret the survey and sample results. This process will include hazard identification, recommendations to eliminate or reduce safety hazard, and a complete management service for asbestos removal, upon your request.

The condition of the asbestos containing materials (ACMs), location and possible impact when disturbed are important details that are covered during the inspection. A qualitative risk assessment will be performed to study the priority measures that should be adopted after the necessary analytical tests are performed. This will give both the person in control and the assessor the necessary details to prepare the AMP and the Asbestos Register.

Asbestos Materials Report and Register (AMRR)

A complete Asbestos Materials Report and Register will be prepared containing detailed information on the building, the location of any asbestos-containing materials, condition assessments, health and safety ratings, detailed recommendations on actions and methods of containment and/or removal.

Asbestos Management Plan

If asbestos is identified on site, an Asbestos Management Plan can be developed by QBM to control the asbestos on site until such time as it is removed.

Deadly Statistics

Next to the United Kingdom, Australia has the highest rate of asbestos-related cancer deaths in the world.
According to cancer experts, an additional 25,000 Australians are expected to die over the next four decades from mesothelioma
In 2007, 551 Australians who registered that year died of mesothelioma. Eighty-four percent of those individuals were men.
About 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos in their workplace
Deaths from Asbestosis increased 253% from 1998 to 2008
There was a 25% increase in accepted asbestos claims from 2003 to 2008
From 1997 the number of deaths has increased from 416 to 628 in 2006
Over the period 1982 to 2006, the total number of new cases of mesothelioma increased from 156 to 649
The rate among females in New South Wales tripled during 1987 and 2006, with many cases attributed to second-hand
The rate among females in New South Wales tripled during 1987 and 2006, with many cases attributed to second-hand
Incidence of the disease in New South Wales nearly doubled in the 20 years between 1987 and 2006
Experts suggest that the number of deaths from mesothelioma will peak somewhere between 2014 and 2021
WHO estimates that 107,00 people die each year from asbestos related lung diseases

References:

Safe Work Australia August 2010

Asbestos.com

World Health Organisation July 2010