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.


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.