The Asbestos Safety Reform or Dangerous Substances Amendment Bill 2014 was passed on November 25, 2014 in the Legislative Assembly, which paved the way for the adoption of the national model asbestos laws. The said bill is part of the legislative reform package that includes the 2014 Work Health and Safety Asbestos Amendment Regulation and two other supporting codes of practice.
Both the Bill as well as the Amendment Regulation are to commence on January 1, 2015.
This reformatory package adopts Chapter 8 of the national model Work Health and Safety Regulations as adapted for the ACT regulatory environment. These model laws were prepared by Safe Work Australia and developed together with consultation form representatives of every jurisdiction, including the ACT and the national representatives from employer and worker organisations across the country.
The national model asbestos regulations established a framework for the proper management of asbestos materials in workplaces including the following areas:
- health monitoring for workers
- naturally occurring asbestos
- notification to Worksafe ACT of asbestos removals
- more stringent requirements for the removal of asbestos
- training of workers at risk of encountering asbestos
- national licensures and competency benchmarks for certified asbestos assessors and removalists
The following variations were made by the Government to establish the foundation of national model regulations:
- needing all asbestos removal tasks to be carried out solely by a certified and licensed asbestos removalist (i.e. not considering the exception in the national model regulations for the removal of non-friable asbestos that do not exceed 10 square meters).
- creating an exception to the prohibition on work involving asbestos when the work is only “minor or routine maintenance work or other minor work”
- replacing all references to “competent person” with “licensed asbestos assessor” to clarify that all asbestos assessment, clearance inspections, and air monitoring must be provided by a licensed asbestos assessor
- requiring that a person with management or control of a workplace must assume asbestos is present if an approved warning sign is present (e.g. this will be the case if the premises is known to have contained loose fill asbestos).
The Government has likewise made the decision to regulate the removal of asbestos in non-workplaces through new additions to the Dangerous Substances (General) Regulation 2004. Starting January 1, 2015, a person must not remove asbestos or asbestos containing material from any premises (including residential areas) except when the person is an appropriately licensed and certified asbestos removalist.
The only exception to this rule will be for instances when the removal is asbestos containing dust incidental to minor or non-friable asbestos or routine maintenance work or other minor work at the premises. To ensure that this change is implemented clearly, guidance and tutorial for employers, workers, and homeowners will be eventually developed and distributed.
To date asbestos safety has focused on the employer-employee relationship, requiring employers to ensure the safety of their workers. These new reforms bring a new focus on community safety and stronger protections for homer renovators, neighbours, residents, and others in the Canberra region.