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October 20, 2018

Tough new ACT government rules for asbestos removers and assessors start to come into play

ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe.

ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe. Photo: Karleen Minney

The ACT government’s new rules for builders and asbestos handlers began to be introduced on Thursday, making formal training mandatory for those taking part on the territory’s mammoth battle with asbestos.

After a year of controversy over the handling of loose asbestos fibres in the capital’s 1021 Mr Fluffy homes, the new rules were endorsed in industry codes on Thursday after they were first announced in November.

The key changes close up more loopholes in the ACT laws, allowing unlicensed people to handle asbestos.

“In the other states and territories [in some specific cases] it can be dealt with by a ‘competent person’ and we have removed that and in our case it must be done by a licensed assessor,” Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe said.

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Another of these loopholes is one that allowed builders to remove up to 10-square-metres of bonded asbestos from homes from the start of 2015.

The old rules were designed so builders could deal with small jobs such as removing asbestos wallboard for bathroom renovations.

The removal of bonded asbestos will now have to be done by a licensed asbestos removalist.

The changes also lift the qualifications and training required to assess and remove asbestos.

Applicants for licences will have additional requirements to apply for and keep licences.

Mr McCabe said the introduction would improve worker protections. “I would call it Work Health and Safety regulations plus, we’ve taken the ones from around the country and strengthened them in some key areas largely because of our experiences with Mr Fluffy,” Mr McCabe said.

This also means that from January 1, the ACT was brought into line with other states and territories, making it easier for outside workers and companies to work in the ACT.

This is because the rules move asbestos handling to the Work Health and Safety Act which Mr McCabe said has now been harmonised around the country.

“So it brings our regulations and our code of practise in line, and it makes it easier for us to regulator assessors and removalists who come in from interstate,” he said.

Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations Mick Gentleman is expected to endorse the two improved codes on Friday.

He said the codes would “provide practical advice” to industry on meeting higher asbestos standards.

“The new safety laws focus on equipping industry professionals, regulators and the community with the information, education and oversight needed to prevent people being exposed to asbestos,” Mr Gentleman said.

The crackdown on handling of asbestos in homes will come into play at various points from January 1.

Back in October Employment Minister Eric Abetz announced that the Commonwealth would lend the ACT government government $1 billion to to buy back and demolish the homes containing Mr Fluffy asbestos.

Two hundred homes are set to be demolished a year for the next five years from January 2015, and soft furnishings in houses will also have to be destroyed.

Link – 

Tough new ACT government rules for asbestos removers and assessors start to come into play

Tough new ACT goverment rules for asbestos removers and assessors start to come into play

ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe.

ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe. Photo: Karleen Minney

The ACT government’s new rules for builders and asbestos handlers began to be introduced on Thursday, making formal training mandatory for those taking part on the territory’s mammoth battle with asbestos.

After a year of controversy over the handling of loose asbestos fibres in the capital’s 1021 Mr Fluffy homes, the new rules were endorsed in industry codes on Thursday after they were first announced in November.

The key changes close up more loopholes in the ACT laws, allowing unlicensed people to handle asbestos.

“In the other states and territories [in some specific cases] it can be dealt with by a ‘competent person’ and we have removed that and in our case it must be done by a licensed assessor,” Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe said.

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Another of these loopholes is one that allowed builders to remove up to 10-square-metres of bonded asbestos from homes from the start of 2015.

The old rules were designed so builders could deal with small jobs such as removing asbestos wallboard for bathroom renovations.

The removal of bonded asbestos will now have to be done by a licensed asbestos removalist.

The changes also lift the qualifications and training required to assess and remove asbestos.

Applicants for licences will have additional requirements to apply for and keep licences.

Mr McCabe said the introduction would improve worker protections. “I would call it Work Health and Safety regulations plus, we’ve taken the ones from around the country and strengthened them in some key areas largely because of our experiences with Mr Fluffy,” Mr McCabe said.

This also means that from January 1, the ACT was brought into line with other states and territories, making it easier for outside workers and companies to work in the ACT.

This is because the rules move asbestos handling to the Work Health and Safety Act which Mr McCabe said has now been harmonised around the country.

“So it brings our regulations and our code of practise in line, and it makes it easier for us to regulator assessors and removalists who come in from interstate,” he said.

Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations Mick Gentleman is expected to endorse the two improved codes on Friday.

He said the codes would “provide practical advice” to industry on meeting higher asbestos standards.

“The new safety laws focus on equipping industry professionals, regulators and the community with the information, education and oversight needed to prevent people being exposed to asbestos,” Mr Gentleman said.

The crackdown on handling of asbestos in homes will come into play at various points from January 1.

Back in October Employment Minister Eric Abetz announced that the Commonwealth would lend the ACT government government $1 billion to to buy back and demolish the homes containing Mr Fluffy asbestos.

Two hundred homes are set to be demolished a year for the next five years from January 2015, and soft furnishings in houses will also have to be destroyed.

See the original article here – 

Tough new ACT goverment rules for asbestos removers and assessors start to come into play

Fine for failing to test for asbestos


Fine for failing to test for asbestos

12 December 2014

Fine for failing to test for
asbestos

Peter Page, the manager of Apartment
Renovation Company, has been fined $40,000 after he failed
to test a substance for asbestos. Mr Page was obliged to
have the textured ceilings tested for asbestos prior to
commencing the work.

Mr Page was sentenced today in the
Auckland District Court under Health and Safety in
Employment (Asbestos) Regulations and the Health and Safety
in Employment Act. Mr Page should have taken all practicable
steps to ensure that, when it was necessary to know whether
a substance was asbestos or not, the substance was
appropriately tested.

Shane Harris was employed as a
handyman by Peter Page to work on 10 units being renovated
and painted at a Kingsway Avenue site. Eight of the units
had textured ceilings.

Mr Harris started work on the site
on 29 July 2013 and about two weeks later he first expressed
his concerns about the ceilings to Mr Page. Because he did
not test for asbestos before work started, Mr Page was then
obliged to have the ceilings tested but did not. He told Mr
Harris that the ceilings had been tested and they were not
asbestos. This was not true. As a result up to 15
contractors were potentially exposed to the risk of asbestos
for approximately 3 months. When Mr Harris became concerned
that the advice he had received from the Mr Page was not
correct, he took his own sample which tested positive for
the presence of asbestos.

“It is recommended practice to
treat any suspect material, like textured ceilings, as
containing asbestos until test results prove otherwise,”
says Brett Murray, General Manager High Hazards and
Specialist Services. “Asbestos poses a risk if it is not
properly contained, especially during building work where
materials are cut or drilled.”

Peter Page had identified
the textured ceilings before work started but he thought the
ceilings were asbestos-free as they didn’t have sparkling
material visible to the eye. “Asbestos is often mixed with
other materials so it is virtually impossible to identify by
eye,” says Brett Murray. “The only way to be certain
that materials contain asbestos is to have them
tested.

“While Mr Page now routinely tests for asbestos
when working with textured ceilings, the regulations are
clear. If you are alerted to the possibility of asbestos in
any material, then you have to have that material
tested.”

• Asbestos has been a major focus for
WorkSafe NZ over the past 12 months.
• In December
2013, WorkSafe New Zealand organised a trans-Tasman forum on asbestos in
Canterbury and in May 2014 we released an Asbestos Toolkit, a series of eight
factsheets on asbestos.
• We have also launched a new
website on asbestos aimed at helping homeowners and DIYers
understand the risks involved with asbestos and how to
manage them.
www.asbestosaware.co.nz was launched in
Christchurch by the Combined Health and Environment Risks
Programme Control Group made up of WorkSafe NZ, Environment
Canterbury, Christchurch City Council, CERA, Canterbury DHB
and Waimakariri District
Council.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

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Fine for failing to test for asbestos

Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency faces the chop

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Mr Tighe has spent nine months in the new job and has already taken a particular interest in Canberra’s pressing problem of 1050 homes containing remnant loose amosite asbestos in the form of Mr Fluffy insulation. Mr Tighe has labelled these homes unliveable and has called on the ACT and Commonwealth governments to come together to seek a solution for affected families.

Meanwhile, asbestos disease support groups have warned of the human cost of abandoning a whole-of-government approach and accused the Coalition of a split over the issue.

Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency head Peter Tighe.

Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency head Peter Tighe. Photo: Louie Douvis

When Labor set up the agency last year following the recommendations of a two-year review into Australia’s asbestos problems, it received bipartisan support from the Coalition.

At the time the legislation was being tabled, Liberal Senator Eric Abetz told the Senate: “Now that we as a community are fully aware of all the dangers of asbestos and the effects that it has on people exposed to it, it makes good sense for all sides of politics and for unions and employers to join together to try to overcome the legacy issues that are clearly out there. Those legacy issues will remain with us as a country for at least another 30 years.”

Senator Abetz also highlighted the flaws in the existing approach to asbestos management throughout Australia. “The involvement of multiple governments across these diverse areas means that efforts to date to address asbestos issues have been fragmented and duplicative,” he said.

Senator Abetz is now the Employment Minister in charge of the agency. A spokeswoman said on Thursday: “The Commission of Audit’s proposals are recommendations to government; they are not recommendations by government. No decisions have yet been made in relation to the agency. The government remains committed to working with the states and territories to remove asbestos risks and this will not change.”

But seven asbestos disease support groups – including the Bernie Banton Foundation, Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia and the Asbestos Victims Association – warned there would be a human cost of abandoning a whole-of-government approach. They are joined by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, which has also called for continued funding of the agency to maintain safeguards for workers.

Australia has the highest per capita rate of asbestos diseases in the world, with the deadly substance still found in millions of homes and workplaces.

Asbestos has claimed the lives of more than 33,000 Australians, and the groups said in a joint statement “an independent, national agency is a significant step in the fight against asbestos diseases, providing a strong, focused, consistent, co-ordinated national approach to improved asbestos education and removal activities”.

ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe, who is the local appointee to the agency, said it would be “a huge loss if the agency folded”.

“It is co-ordinating a national response to the management of asbestos and taking a leadership role to ensure it is done appropriately,” he said. “Without that, the potential is a continued fragmented approach to what is one of the most serious safety issues confronting our society”.

The head of the Fluffy Owners and Residents Action Group Brianna Heseltine said the agency had played a vital role in informing owners and residents about Mr Fluffy’s troubling legacy on their homes.

“Mr Tighe’s call for the demolition of our homes put Canberra on high alert about the serious health risks posed by the likelihood of ongoing loose-fill asbestos contamination, and drew attention to the absence of legislative protections for residents,” she said. “The ACT government’s February 18 letter was conspicuously silent on the main issue at stake for our community – health – focusing instead on the increased burdens owners must bear when carrying out even minor internal works.

“Owners and residents are likely to feel left high and dry if the agency is abolished only weeks after putting this vital issue on the map.”











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Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency faces the chop

EPMU calls for tighter rules on asbestos

Christchurch rebuild workers and their families should not be put at risk of serious illness due to exposure to asbestos, says EPMU Construction, the union for construction workers.

The union welcomes charges brought by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment against Canterbury District Health Board and Exterior Building Care Goleman Limited under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.

It is alleged they allowed workers to be exposed to asbestos at Christchurch Hospital.

But more needs to be done to ensure people are healthy and safe at work.

“Asbestos is a significant hazard, and no one should be exposed to it without proper training and precautions,” says Ron Angel, EPMU Construction industry organiser. “Yet we see cases like this where employers just don’t take it seriously.

“One group which is particularly at risk is Pasifika and Filipino migrant workers, who we’re asking to come here and help us but may send home with chronic illnesses which could be avoided. That’s not right.

“The government can do more to make sure workers and their families aren’t put at risk as we rebuild Christchurch. We want politicians and employers to treat every home and workplace like their own.”

EPMU Construction is calling on the government to:

– create a register of sites in Christchurch where asbestos has been identified

– ban the importation of asbestos-containing products

– create a national plan to eliminate asbestos from the built environment by 2030.

The two companies who have been charged are expected to appear in court next year.

See original article – 

EPMU calls for tighter rules on asbestos

Encasing asbestos a 'serious future health risk'


Encasing asbestos a ‘serious future health risk’


GEORGINA STYLIANOU

Last updated 09:03 20/11/2013

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An EQC policy of covering up asbestos in hundreds of quake-damaged Canterbury homes could be overhauled by the Government amid concerns about serious health risks.

Government officials have previously raised concerns about the way asbestos is being handled in post-earthquake Canterbury, but say the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Bill next month will make guidelines more clear for construction workers.

Staff from WorkSafe – the new health and safety regulator – were in Christchurch yesterday and told The Press it would be naive to think there would not be asbestos-related illnesses in the future.

The Earthquake Commission (EQC) has previously said up to 43,000 Christchurch homes due for quake repairs could contain the potentially fatal substance.

It estimated that in 10 per cent of cases, asbestos found in ceilings or walls was encased behind plasterboard, instead of being removed.

A Fletcher spokesman said about 15 to 16 per cent of houses that tested positive for asbestos were being encased.

The chairman of the WorkSafe establishment board, Gregor Coster, believed the encasement policy should be “reconsidered carefully” because it posed serious health risks in the future.

“An electrician might be rewiring a house and is put at risk and this is not what we should be doing in terms of managing health and safety,” he said.

An EQC spokesman yesterday said if there were any changes to regulations it would comply.

Coster said contractors across the region needed to be better at testing for asbestos.

“The truth of the matter is I am concerned about the potential exposure . . . particularly during that early demolition phase,” he said.

Geoffrey Podger, the acting chief executive of the WorkSafe establishment unit, said only a certain percentage of asbestos breaches in the city were identified.

“Our inspectors can’t be everywhere, but equally if everyone could carry out their legislative duties, they wouldn’t need to be,” he said.

MBIE health and safety inspector Steve Moran said the influence of big project management firms – including Arrow International and Fletcher – was having a “huge effect in lifting the performance of smaller companies”.

Canterbury District Health Board medical officer of health Dr Alistair Humphrey, who has been fighting for EQC to review its encasement policy since 2011, said it would have been cost-effective and logical to remove asbestos from houses when repairs were being done.

He urged the Government to follow in the footsteps of Australia and make a commitment to remove asbestos.


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However, it was good news the policy could be reviewed.

“The Christchurch community and the New Zealand population will reap the benefits of [WorkSafe and MBIE’s] courage,” Humphrey said.

THE FACTS

WorkSafe, the new health and safety regulator, will be up and running on December 16.

The health and safety functions from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will transfer to WorkSafe.

The Health and Safety at Work Bill will be introduced into the House next month and will replace The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. It will be based on Australian law. The new law and key supporting regulations are expected to be in place by the end of 2014 and will start coming into effect in 2015.

EQC has never provided figures on how many homes have had asbestos encased.

In 2011, 143 people in New Zealand were diagnosed with asbestos-related conditions, including mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos.

Five investigations into breaches of asbestos regulations are under way and the Government has laid charges after an investigation into asbestos exposure at Christchurch Hospital earlier this year.

– © Fairfax NZ News


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Encasing asbestos a 'serious future health risk'

Asbestos trade breakfast attracts hundreds of workers

More than 350 people working on the Canterbury rebuild downed tools for two hours early this morning to learn more about working with asbestos and understanding the risks and controls that need to be in place.

The Canterbury Rebuild Health and Safety Programme team, part of the Ministry of Business of Innovation and Employment’s Health and Safety Group, held the trade breakfast at Addington Raceway this morning.

“Managing the health risks of asbestos is a major issue in the rebuild, and it’s absolutely crucial that any employer or principal working on the rebuild understands their responsibilities and requirements,” says Programme Director Kathryn Heiler.

“As the residential rebuild gets underway in earnest, many construction companies are asking for more information and advice on asbestos removal,” Ms Heiler says.

“In particular companies are interested in the process for applying for Certificates of Competence, a requirement for anyone who works with friable asbestos, or undertakes what’s known as restricted work with asbestos.

“Since 2011 MBIE has already held a number of smaller workshops and education sessions on asbestos and occupational health in the rebuild – but it has been fantastic to see such a strong turnout this morning.

“Over the next few months the Programme team will be holding more of these types of events, helping to provide information and guidance on health and safety to rebuild workers and companies,” Ms Heiler says.

This morning’s trade breakfast covered off topics of:

– hazard identification

– asbestos sites

– health issues

– testing and sampling

– responsibilities of employers and duty-holders

– unrestricted and restricted work, and

– Certificates of Competency.

See more here – 

Asbestos trade breakfast attracts hundreds of workers