The NSW Code of Practice: How to Manage and Control Asbestos in the Workplace (2011) requires all persons who conduct a business or undertaking to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that workers and other persons are not put at risk from work carried out as part of the business or undertaking. One of the ways in which this manifests itself is in the creation and maintenance of an asbestos register.
What is an asbestos register?
This document records any asbestos or asbestos containing materials (ACM) within the building. Amongst other things, the register records the location, type and condition of the asbestos (if present) and the date of identification. Moreover, included are recommendations to minimise or control health risks and proposals of appropriate corrective actions.
Prior to any demolition or refurbishment work starting, an asbestos survey is needed and the asbestos register must be reviewed and it be ensured that all asbestos that is likely to be disturbed is identified and removed so far as is reasonably practicable. If in the course of creating an asbestos register, asbestos is identified, an Asbestos Management Plan must be created. Both of these documents must be reviewed every 5 years and be easily available to all workers.
However, according to the type of building, different regulations surround the legal obligations of creating an asbestos register. These are as follows:
According to the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011, “a person with management or control of a workplace must ensure that a register (an asbestos register) is prepared and kept at the workplace”. However, workplaces are exempt if:
- the workplace is a building that was constructed after 31 December 2003; and
- no asbestos has been identified at the workplace; and
- no asbestos is likely to be present from time to time.
If asbestos is identified, a written management asbestos plan is required detailing how the risk will be minimised. This register must be readily available to all employees.
2. Residential Body Corporate/Strata Buildings
Residential strata schemes or bodies corporate are under no obligation to provide an asbestos register for the building provided that they do not undertake any works on the premises and that the common areas are used for residential purposes only.
However, if a contractor (e.g. an electrician or a plumber) is employed to work within the premises, the building’s status is automatically changed as it has become a workplace for that contractor. Consequently, a duty of care is created under the WHS Regulation to provide an asbestos register for the building (provided the building was constructed prior to 31 December 2003). This register must cover the outside of the building and all common areas. However, it is important to note the word employed here, because if a plumber or electrician is engaged ad-hoc to carry out maintenance or repair work, the exemption to create a register still applies.
3. Residential Properties
Residential properties are not required to have an asbestos register unless it is a place of work. Of course, this does not mean that a register will not be helpful if asbestos is discovered.
Asbestos must be treated with extreme caution at all times as when disturbed, fine asbestos fibres can become airborne. When airborne the fibres can be inhaled and cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. These diseases can eventuate up to 25 to 40 years after an individual is initially exposed. Consequently, appropriate personal protective equipment must be utilised to ensure personal safety.
Qualified inspectors from ADE Consulting Group undertake asbestos surveys for a variety of property owners, including residential, private business, state, and public/private consortiums throughout Sydney, NSW and Australia. Our team of expert consultants are based in Sydney, Newcastle and Melbourne, giving us the scope we need to undertake hazardous materials and investigations across the country.
ADE’s own in-house NATA accredited laboratory allows for rapid response and fast reporting turnaround time.