This webinar was held during Asbestos Awareness Week 2023 to educate businesses about where asbestos containing materials are commonly found in commercial and industrial buildings, reveal the compliance issues auditors most commonly encounter when they conduct site visits, and give an overview of the legislative requirements regarding the management of asbestos containing materials for businesses operating out of premises built prior to 1990.
Good morning everyone and welcome to the 2023 asbestos safety for business session. On behalf of the office of industrial relations, I'd like to thank you all for taking time out of your busy work and home lives to join us today. It's all part of the asbestos awareness week 2023. My name is Chris Bombolas and I'm your MC for this morning. I'd like to begin by respectfully acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we are speaking to you from today and on which you are learning and working from today. We also pay our respects to elders past and present and extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people watching today.
Little bit of housekeeping if you have questions for any of our speakers today, type them into the live chat box on the right of your screen and we will seek to answer those during the panel session that follows our final speaker. If you have any technical difficulties during the live stream, please make sure the sound on your computer is turned on, refresh your browser and if that doesn't work, contact us via the live chat box or email us at events at oir.qld.gov.au. You can also change the size of your screen to full screen by selecting the four small arrows next to the volume bar at the bottom of your screen. We have around 400 people streaming the session today. So thanks for joining us this Asbestos Awareness Week, a week that focuses on how to work and live safely around Asbestos.
Before it was banned, Asbestos was used in over 3000 products and can be found in many buildings and structures throughout Australia that were built or renovated before 1990.
As a result, the dangerous legacy that Asbestos containing materials pose affects so many people, tradies, homeowners, renovators, DIYers, demolishers, Asbestos removalists and business owners and operators.
In our session today, you'll learn about where Asbestos materials are commonly found in buildings. We will explain some of the most common compliance issues auditors encounter when they conduct site visits and we will also dig into the Asbestos requirements for businesses operating out of premises built prior to 1990.
Tomorrow, we'll be holding a second session, specifically aimed at homeowners and DIYers to educate about where Asbestos containing materials are commonly found in homes. So be sure to tune in for that session as well. Now let's get back to today's session. First up, I'd like to introduce Brendan Warrell, who is a team leader in the Office of Industrial Relations Asbestos Compliance Unit. Brendan's unit conducts comprehensive investigations of serious Asbestos related incidents
for referral for either prosecution or Asbestos license holder sanctions.
The unit also develops targeted asbestos compliance campaigns and provides compliance support to the inspector. Inspector. Brendan has 15 years practical experience working in occupational hygiene and asbestos assessor roles across industry and government.
He also has a master of occupational hygiene and toxicology and is a full member of the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygiene. Welcome, Brendan.
Thank you, Chris. It's great to be here today as part of Asbestos Awareness Week 2023.
Firstly, I'd like to take a few moments to talk about the management of asbestos in workplaces. The first step in managing the risk of exposure to asbestos in the workplace is to ensure that all asbestos or ACM within the workplace is identified.
Up until the mid 1980s, Australia had one of the highest rates of asbestos use per person in the world. Asbestos was mined in Australia until 1984 and 1.5 million tons of asbestos was imported between 1930 and 1983.
Asbestos was used by many different industries and there were over 3,000 different products known to contain asbestos.
These products can be found in many buildings instructors built or renovated before 1990.
A helpful guide is the common location of materials containing asbestos in commercial buildings publication accessible by the asbestos.qld.gov.au website.
Disturbing asbestos risks exposing people at your workplace, neighboring businesses and the community to asbestos, to airborne asbestos fibres. Breathing in these fibres can cause life-threatening diseases such as asbestos, lung cancer and mesothelioma, which may not occur until 20 to 30 years after exposure.
You risk disturbing the asbestos when working with these materials during service, maintenance, refurbishment and demolition work.
Therefore, to ensure that all asbestos or ACM is identified within your workplace, you need to ensure that this identification work is completed by a competent person.
Now, you may be wondering what does this term competent person mean?
Work health and safety law defines a competent person to be someone who has acquired knowledge and skills to carry out the tasks through training, a qualification or experience.
This means that a competent person to identify asbestos is trained to handle and take asbestos samples, has the knowledge and experience to identify suspected asbestos and be able to determine risk and control measures.
They need to be familiar with local building and construction practices to determine where asbestos is likely to be present and be able to determine if a material is friable or non-friable and evaluate its condition.
If they meet this criteria, examples of professionals who may be considered competent include occupational hygienists with asbestos experience,
licensed asbestos assessors, asbestos removal supervisors,
persons who have completed the accredited asbestos assessor course or persons working for organisations accredited by NARTA to perform asbestos surveys.
Now, not all occupational hygienists, asbestos assessors and asbestos removalists will be competent to identify asbestos and conduct asbestos surveys.
The accredited training courses that these professionals complete to obtain their asbestos assessor or asbestos removal licenses do not cover how to conduct an asbestos survey. You must make sure you practise due diligence by conducting a thorough check on the professional before making any final decisions. This would include checking that they are insured, have safe work practices in place to take samples safely and decontaminate sample areas, a specific methodology for how they conduct asbestos surveys, and getting references from other clients
and reviewing example reports.
It is important that the competent person consults with you and takes detailed notes and photographs during the survey as this will help develop the asbestos register.
Asbestos registers, you may have heard of these, but what exactly are they and does your workplace need one?
An asbestos register is a workplace safety management tool that records the location type, condition and date of identification for all material, either at the workplace or present at the workplace from time to time that has been identified or assumed to contain asbestos.
This also includes materials that are likely to contain asbestos that are not accessible for inspection or testing.
Before you can develop the asbestos register, you must have a competent person inspect, that is survey, your workplace to identify all asbestos and ACM.
If buildings and structures at your workplace were built before 1990, or if plant was installed before 2004, and you are the person with management or control of the workplace, you must ensure an asbestos register is prepared and readily accessible to workers, health and safety representatives and other PCBUs at your workplace.
Even if a competent person determines there is no asbestos and ACM at your workplace, you are still required to have an asbestos register prepared and readily accessible with a statement indicating this finding.
Now what should happen once the asbestos register is prepared?
If asbestos has been identified or assumed to be present at your workplace, you must prepare a written asbestos management plan and ensure that it is readily accessible to workers, health and safety representatives and other PCBUs.
In preparing the asbestos management plan, you must again consult with workers and their representatives and ensure they are provided with an opportunity to contribute to the decision-making processes.
More information on asbestos registered management plans can be found in the Queensland Code of Practice, How to Manage and Control Asbestos in the Workplace.
Clear and visible signage and labels are also important to effectively communicate the presence of asbestos and ACM in the workplace.
Whenever possible, you must ensure labels are placed at the actual location where the material has been identified or assumed to be asbestos or ACM.
You must also include information about the labels in the asbestos register and management plan that will help a person locate the asbestos at your workplace.
If it is not reasonably practicable to install labels, you can use signs to indicate the presence of asbestos and ACM. You may also use signs to provide instructions about how to access the asbestos register. For example, you could place signs in several locations throughout the workplace, such as at the main entrance, the administration office reception and within the electrical meter boxes.
The Queensland Government has a comprehensive regulatory framework to minimise the risks of exposure to asbestos in workplaces, mine sites, domestic premises and the natural environment.
The Office of Industrial Relations is the lead agency to coordinate asbestos management issues across government and led the development of the statewide strategic plan for the safe management of asbestos in Queensland.
Under this strategic plan, one of the goals for 2025 is for all commercial buildings to have up-to-date asbestos registers. To support this goal, OAR's asbestos compliance unit has developed a yearly asbestos register and management plan audit campaign, whereby for a three-month period each year, inspectors throughout Queensland will specifically audit businesses operating from buildings built prior to 1990 to monitor and enforce compliance with the asbestos register and management plan, work health and safety laws.
As part of the initial campaign, run between the 1st of August and 31st of October, 2022, inspectors throughout the state completed 116 campaign assessments resulting in 65 enforcement actions. This included 55 improvement notices, seven infringement notices and three immediate compliance actions.
The top five main areas of non-compliance identified as part of the campaign were no written asbestos management plan for the workplace,
the presence and location of asbestos was not indicated within the workplace,
no asbestos register was developed for the workplace,
and the written asbestos management plan was not reviewed as required by law.
Last financial year, inspectors issued 151 statutory notices relating to asbestos registers and asbestos management plans. This came to 126 improvement notices, nine prohibition notices and 16 infringement notices, totalling over $36,000.
This year's campaign commenced on the 1st of September and will run through to the end of November.
Within the first month, inspectors throughout the state conducted 15 campaign assessments issuing 31 improvement notices and four infringement notices.
Of the notices issued so far, the majority have been issued for failing to clearly indicate the presence and location of asbestos and failing to ensure asbestos registers are prepared, kept at the workplace and reviewed.
Stay tuned to our social media accounts for a full summary of this year's enforcement actions once the campaign has been finalised.
In the past five financial years, OAR has issued over 262 infringement notices for asbestos-related contraventions of the work, health and safety law, totalling over half a million dollars in on-the-spot fines.
The most common infringement notice issued by inspectors was for carrying out, directing, or allowing a worker to carry out work using asbestos except as expressly allowed for under the regulation.
The second most common infringement notice issued was for failing to ensure that an asbestos register was prepared and kept at the workplace.
And the third most common infringement notice issued was for using power tools, brooms, or any implement that causes the release of airborne asbestos in a manner that is not controlled.
Since the beginning of the 2018-19 financial year, OAR has sanctioned 22 asbestos licence holders, with sanctions including adding conditions, cancelling, suspending, disqualifying, or issuing warnings to a licensed asbestos removalist or licensed asbestos assessor.
In July this year, a licensed asbestos assessor had their licence cancelled with a disqualification period of 12 months before they can reapply, for failing to ensure that they carried out authorised activities safely and confidently.
One of the contraventions taken into consideration as part of this cancellation was that the assessor issued a clearance certificate following licensed asbestos removal work with visible asbestos contamination still remaining within the asbestos removal area.
In that same time period, 22 PCBUs have been prosecuted for asbestos-related offences under the Work Health and Safety Act. As a result of these successful prosecutions, the PCBUs were fined over $135,000 by the courts.
The two most recent prosecutions relate to matters that occurred at Brisbane schools, both involving the installation of air conditioning units, whereby the PCBUs failed to manage the risks associated with asbestos and drilled into asbestos sheeting as part of the air conditioning unit install process.
That concludes my presentation and update on OAR's asbestos compliance activities and enforcement actions. Further information on asbestos for Queenslanders is available at the asbestos.qld.gov.au website, including more specific information on the asbestos license holder sanctions and asbestos-related prosecutions.
- Thanks, Brendan. Your unit has certainly been busy in the fight to ensure safety around asbestos.
Time now to introduce our second speaker, and he is Matt Young, who is also from the Office of Industrial Relations. Matt is a principal advisor for the Occupational Health Hygiene and Asbestos Unit. He has spent his career in asbestos risk management, and his current role provides advice on legislative, scientific, and technical issues regarding asbestos. Over to you, Matt. - Well, good morning, everyone, and thanks for joining us.
So today, I'm going to be talking about practical guidance for tradespersons working with asbestos on minor and small-scale works.
So firstly, why was asbestos used in building products? Well, it's a naturally occurring mineral, and it's easily acquired. It has great flexibility, it has tensile strength, it has the ability to insulate from heat, it's both non-tense and non-tense. It's both non-conductive to electricity and it's chemically inert, and it is affordable. And as mentioned before, asbestos has been used in over 3,000 products, various locations and applications, and that's not just fibro sheeting.
So if we're assuming asbestos is present, as a general rule, if the building is constructed before the mid-'80s, it's highly likely that asbestos is present. Between the mid-'80s and 1990, it's likely, and after 1990, it's going to be unlikely.
So the risk factors with asbestos. So asbestos is a health risk when the extremely fine fibres become airborne and are inhaled.
So the likelihood of any particular person developing an asbestos-related illness depends on a number of factors, including exposure concentration,
duration of exposure, the frequency of exposure, the actual size, shape, and chemical make-up of the asbestos fibres, and any individual risk factors, such as the person or smoker.
So as a tradesperson, you may be required to perform maintenance or service work on non-friable asbestos from time to time as part of your role.
Under WHS legislation, this is referred to as asbestos-related work. So asbestos-related work essentially means work involving asbestos other than removal. It's permitted under the exception set out in regulation 419.
So minor and maintenance work on in-situ, non-friable is permitted.
So minor tasks such as drilling, painting, and making penetrations can be done safely by following established safe work procedures to both reduce the likelihood of asbestos becoming airborne and to reduce the risk of any fibres being inhaled.
So in terms of licensing,
asbestos-related work sits over here in an area where no license is required. You can also remove up to 10 square metres of non-friable without a license. If you do, however, need to remove more than 10 square metres of non-friable or any amount of friable, you need to engage a suitably trained and licensed removal contractor.
So in regards to asbestos-related work, we have some duties for employers and for workers.
So firstly, for employers.
You have a duty to provide a safe work environment. You have the duty to ensure the health and safety of workers. This includes managing the risks of asbestos exposure, for example, by identifying or assuming the presence of asbestos prior to asbestos-related work commencing.
Secondly, you have a duty to provide the required training, information, instruction for workers to be able to conduct their work safely, and this relates to asbestos-related work.
You also have a duty to provide health risks associated with asbestos if you're conducting asbestos-related work.
And with health monitoring,
if your workers are conducting asbestos-related work and they're at risk of exposure, you have a duty to provide health monitoring.
So for workers, you have a duty to take reasonable care of health and safety for yourself and others, and you must comply with any reasonable instructions, policies and procedures given to you by your employer, business, or control of a workplace. This will include asbestos-related policies and procedures.
So as a tradesperson or a worker, if you're attending a non-domestic premises, you should always ask to see the asbestos register. And if you're a person with management control of a workplace, you must prepare and keep an asbestos register if there's asbestos or ACM in your place of work.
Buildings constructed after the 31st of December 1989 don't need an asbestos register unless asbestos has been identified.
And if an asbestos register has to be kept, it must be readily accessible to persons such as workers and PCBUs who attend your work site.
So questions to ask yourself as a worker attending a non-domestic work site.
Have I seen the asbestos register? Is the asbestos register suitable for the type of work I'm going to be conducting?
Has asbestos been identified or assumed to be present in the area where I intend to work? And is my task likely to disturb asbestos?
So as a worker, if you're attending a domestic premises, there's no duty on the householder to have or provide you an asbestos register. The duties with the PCBU attending to identify asbestos in relation to their work area. And as we mentioned before, you also have a duty to take reasonable care of yourself and others.
So if you attend a domestic premises and you're unsure if asbestos is present, seek confirmation prior to starting work. Have the material tested or assume asbestos is present.
It's important to note here, the sampling of anything you suspect may contain asbestos can in itself be a hazardous task and this should only be done by a competent person. And we remember here that all samples must be analysed in a NARTA accredited laboratory.
So if we are going to assume asbestos is present, criteria we can use are, for example, the age of the building, is it pre-1990?
The era of renovation. A lot of renovations happened in the 70s and 80s and the use of asbestos here was highly likely. We can also look out for manufacturers' labels.
If we're assuming fibre cement, for example, if it's asbestos cement present, we can use the look and feel of the product. Does it have the dimple effect on the back, your classic golf ball print?
Important here to note, though, that manufacturing processes change between the 60s, 70s and 80s for fibre cement sheet, so the dimple effect may be less pronounced or have a slightly different pattern.
Are there protruding nails in the material?
Fibre cement sheet, asbestos fibre cement sheet is hard, so the nail heads will be sitting proud on the surface. Or are there cover strips on the joints of the sheeting? Again, a classic use of fibre cement.
So in terms of information we have to help us know where asbestos is, we have the Queensland's dedicated asbestos information website, www.asbestos.qld.gov.au. We have sections in here with a photograph gallery showing us common locations of where asbestos can be. We also have downloadable graphics showing us the use and location of common asbestos in domestic and commercial premises. And we can run through a few of these photographs now.
So we can have asbestos on the roof, like here on the left, you've got your classic Super 6 corrugated roof sheet.
You can also get fibre cement roof tiles and roof shingles, like shown on the right.
Your downpipes and gutters can be moulded fibre cement.
You can have asbestos cement external cladding. So here you've got your shadow line and cover line sheeting. Both contain asbestos. They're just manufactured with a slightly different profile.
Your cephets can be asbestos cement. Here we have a hardy flex, two types, the slotted design and the diamond. Both contain asbestos.
You're under window panels. These might have a surface texture like a pebble dash shown on the left. And this has underlying fibre cement. Or on the right, you've got your fibre cement flat sheet and you can see the joining strip.
So inside buildings, we can have ceiling tiles. Here on the left, we've got suspended ceiling tiles, sat in a metal grid.
And on the right, we've got a texture coating to a concrete ceiling slab. This almost looks like a paint.
We can have asbestos cement wall and ceiling linings. And again, we can see the cover strip there.
In your lift machinery, we can have asbestos brake pads. Between the joins in your ducting, we can have asbestos mastic.
Asbestos was used extensively in electrical installations.
So on the left here, we've got the Zellamite pitch tile backing board.
The center photograph there is a close-up of a ceramic fuse holder. And that's got a woven textile flash guard. And that's a friable product. You can get asbestos in the old cast iron electrical switches. So shown here on the right, we've got a textile seal around the door. That's a friable product. And then we've got asbestos spark arrestors within the switch.
So moving back to external areas, we can get moulded fibre cement telecommunications pits.
moulded fibre cement disconnected trap surrounds the form work that surrounds that.
Your actual water pipes can be asbestos cement. So here we have a mains pipe sat on a concrete plinth. And your vent pipes and vent caps can both contain asbestos.
Moving on to our friable products, we've got boiler and pipe lagging, shown on the left there.
And then on the right, we've got a sprayed asbestos coating to structural steel. And we can note there the overspray either side of the steel.
Firedoors can contain friable asbestos cores.
And so can floor covering. So on the left here, you've got your classic vinyl tiles.
And the adhesive used to stick the tiles to the floor, that can have asbestos. And on the right, we've got our vinyl sheeting. And this has a friable paper backing.
We also want to mention LDB, low density board. So this material is up to 70% asbestos. Compared to the typical approximately 20 in fiber cement sheeting. This material has a calcium silicate matrix, meaning under pressure it can bend easily, and then it will tear almost like cardboard.
That's important to remember, LDB is friable, compared to non-friable with our normal fibro. It's much softer than fibro. So if it's disturbed, it's going to more readily give off fibers. And LDB can be mistaken for fibro. So here we have an example in the photographs. We have the difference in the nail heads that you'll generally see. So on the left, LDB is a softer material. So the nail heads are going to be flush or either countersunk into the material. And on the right, the nail heads on cement sheet, as this material is harder, they're going to sit proud on the surface.
So we've got a couple of photographs here of LDB in situ. So on the left, this is a perforated ceiling tile. And LDB quite often came perforated.
And LDB was manufactured with the product names Asbestos Deluxe and DuraLux. We have a photograph here of the product printed on the back of the sheet. So if you see a board of Asbestos Deluxe on the back, that's going to indicate it's LDB. But it's important here that we don't always use the location of these prints as the only factor of determining it's LDB, because these may not be present each and every time.
So in specific controlled circumstances, you can work on LDB for maintenance purposes.
There are a limited number of workplace health and safety approved methods, which can be found on the Queensland Government Asbestos website.
It's important to remember, these are the only permitted works allowed on LDB without an A-Class license.
So if we are going to be undertaking asbestos related work, there are controls applicable to this work, and they're the controls applicable to all types of asbestos removal.
So firstly, we want to identify our hazards. By use of a risk assessment, this can include the condition of the material we intend to work on, and are there other risks in our work area, such as working at heights or electrical.
We need to indicate the asbestos work area. That's by use of barricades and signage.
We need to select our PPE and use it correctly.
We want to use the wet methods for removal, because wet methods must always be employed and dry removal is not preferred and should only be considered if wet spray or soaking is not suitable, for example, where there's live electrics. But if you are required to even consider the dry methods, engage a licensed professional to conduct this work.
Moving down the list, we need to select and use our tools correctly, and that's generally going to be hand tools, and then decontamination and waste containment and disposal.
So in terms of RPE, respiratory protective equipment,
guidance on the selection of suitable RPE can be found in Appendix C of the How to Safely Remove Asbestos Code of Practice. This will also give us information regarding fit testing, fit checking, the need to be clean-shaven for tight-fitting respirators where they touch the skin, and the correct use and maintenance of RPE.
Now, in terms of some safe work procedures for asbestos-related work on non-friable, we can run through a couple now. So starting off by drilling a hole into non-friable ACM. So after we've selected our RPE and PPE, set our work area up, put our barricades and signage up, we can indicate the area on the wall where we want to drill the hole. Then we're going to use something like a shaving foam to surround the area. This is going to assist with suppression and the use of the sprayer. We're going to use a battery-powered hand drill running at less than 650 RPM.
So we're going to place the drill bit through a disposable cup, fill the cup with shaving foam, then we place the cup against the wall in the location we want to drill, and then we pass the drill bit through the shaving foam into the wall. So this is, in effect, going to suppress and capture all the dust and debris that's created during the task. An alternative method for drilling is to use a H-rated industrial HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner.
So again, we're marking the location on the wall. We're attaching our dust extraction nozzle to our H-rated HEPA vacuum cleaner. We turn on the vacuum cleaner and commence drilling through the preformed hole in the nozzle. And as we're drilling, the vacuum cleaner is going to extract all the dust and the vacuum cleaner. So we're going to use a vacuum cleaner that's going to extract all the dust and debris that's created.
So it's important here to note that we only ever want to use a H-class industrial rated vacuum cleaner. And we're looking for a label, like shown on the bottom right here, which will indicate it's a H-class. If you have a vacuum cleaner with an L or M class, this is not suitable or safe to use with asbestos.
And it's also important to remember, never use a domestic vacuum cleaner under any circumstances.
And if there's a HEPA filter sign on your domestic vacuum cleaner, it does not mean it's H-class.
If we're asked to paint asbestos cement, for example, a few things to remember is we only want to be painting material that's in good condition.
As preparation, we can clean the surface with sugar soap. If needed, we may be able to lightly scrape the surface, but it should only be done on wet surfaces, never any dry scraping.
We only want to paint over existing paint. We don't want to remove all the existing paint as part of our prep due to the risk of disturbing the underlying asbestos.
So after we've conducted all the tasks mentioned before, we need to do our cleanup and disposal. That's going to be with the wet wipe method. We want to be using disposable wet wipes or disposable wet rags. If we have a H-rated industrial HEPA vacuum cleaner, this can assist in our decontamination.
We want to be decontaminating our work area, ourselves and our tools.
And at the end of our work, we want to be disposing of our waste and ensuring that we've done a clearance inspection. So this is either an informal clearance inspection you can do yourself to ensure there's no dust or debris present, or if your client requests a formal clearance, use a suitably competent person for this.
So we do have some prohibited activities and prohibited tools under WH legislation.
So the use of high pressure water blasters, compressed air or abrasive blasting is completely banned under WHS legislation.
And we can only use power tools and brooms if they're enclosed or used with a device that prevents dust or used in a way that prevents dust.
So our recommendation here is if you don't have the skills and experience for the minor tasks we've just discussed earlier, engage in appropriately licensed and trained asbestos removalist. And also if you need to remove greater than 10 square meters of non-fryable, any quantity of fryable, or more than minor quantities of asbestos dust and debris, comply with the law and always engage a suitably licensed asbestos removalist.
So all of the safe work procedures we've just discussed are available on the Queensland website, www.asbestos.qld.gov.au.
In Queensland, we also have two codes of practice which are updated in 2021.
That's the how to safely remove code of practice and how to manage asbestos in the workplace code of practice. And these give you guidance on how to comply with legislation.
And finally, in Appendix G, at the back of how to manage asbestos in the workplace, we have some more safe work procedures and practices which you can review.
Thanks very much, and I'll hand back.
- Thanks, Matt. Some great advice on dealing with asbestos safely. And a reminder that if you do have a question for Matt or our other representative from the Office of Industrial Relations, Brendan, then please use the live chat box. And also Tim, who's coming up. And Tim, no pressure, but we do have, we have had some very positive feedback coming through in the chat about Brendan and Matt's presentations. So as the final speaker, the pressure is on. And let me introduce Tim Reid, Manager of Waste Compliance Operations within the Department of Environment and Science. Tim has worked with the state government in a regulatory context for over 15 years. The majority within the environmental department. For the past five years, Tim has worked specifically in waste compliance, including the implementation and now coordination of the statewide compliance response to the waste levy that commenced in 2019. Welcome, Tim.
(Silence) - Thank you, Chris. And thanks for the no pressure response as well. Not like I needed any more pressure added.
So I'd like to, I guess, start with thanking Office of Industrial Relations for the invite to participate in this. The Department of Environment and Science deals mostly in waste and environmental legislation. So it's good to be part of such an event on such an important week.
So I'll be talking through...
When I was first invited to present for this session, I wanted to come to the event with a simple message to provide to asbestos removal businesses.
And a lot of that comes down to the classification of asbestos as a type of waste.
And how to transport... Once you safely remove that asbestos, how to transport that asbestos to a licensed waste disposal facility as well. So these are the three subjects or topics we're going to work through during this short presentation. So we'll talk about asbestos classification as a waste stream, as being regulated waste. We'll talk about asbestos as trackable waste.
And we'll also talk about the licensing requirements for transport of that material as well.
So these are the two pieces of legislation that we work under in the Department of Environment and Science. So we have the Environmental Protection Act and the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act. Both apply to some degree to asbestos.
Now, waste classification is...
There's three primary waste classifications in the environmental protection legislation. Starting at the bottom, we just have general waste. So that normal waste produced in a household or in an industrial commercial area. Then we have two classifications of regulated waste. So we have category two and category one regulated wastes.
Now, regulated wastes are higher risk wastes. So they aren't your standard demolition waste. They represent a higher risk to the environment, if not managed appropriately. So they deserve a specific classification.
So category one regulated waste is the highest risk.
Category two is our moderate risk wastes.
Now, I've taken a small excerpt from the back of the Environmental Protection Regulation, Schedule 9. You'll see asbestos is listed in there. And it's a category two regulated waste.
So we've determined its regulated waste. We now move to the concept of trackable waste.
Now, regulated wastes, because they are that higher risk waste, the Department needs a way of tracking that, of understanding where that waste is being transported, how it's being transported, and where it's being transported to.
We do not want these higher risk wastes being mismanaged or being transported unlawfully to another part of the state or another part of the country indeed.
Generally, this waste tracking applies across the entire country. So even transporting asbestos from Queensland to another state will require some form of tracking and lawful transport as well. So all commercial movements of asbestos are required to be tracked.
So there's multiple different ways to do that tracking. The example I've provided in the slide is a paper waste tracking certificate. You'll see multiple parts on that. The first part, part one is the source of that waste. So the generator completes that part. As an asbestos removalist, that would be the section that you would be completing for the source, the location of that waste.
Part two is for transporters to complete. And then once it's taken to a lawful disposal site, part three is completed. And all of that information is then submitted to the Department for our records.
So asbestos transport is the first part I'll talk about. So the asbestos has been removed from the location. It's now time to transport to the disposal facility.
Now, the key message here, I guess, is in that top point. There's safe removal that my two colleagues have just spoken about this morning. So how to safely remove that asbestos waste.
Safe transport, unfortunately, is often missed.
So, especially in terms of licensed transport. So the Department of Environment licenses many, many, many environmental activities.
Regulated waste transport is one of those activities. So that's to transport regulated waste.
For asbestos, that's in volumes greater than 175 kilograms.
So where asbestos is transported in a single load greater than that volume, an environmental authority for regulated waste transport
And waste tracking is required as well.
Now, the environmental authorities are available. It's a standard environmental authority.
You can obtain one from contacting the Department of Environment. They're not a difficult approval, but it's simply to obtain, but it simply means that you'll be licensed transporter and or will be handled appropriately.
Now, we know asbestos cannot be recycled.
So therefore, the only destination for asbestos
is for a disposal site. Now, the Department does license waste disposal facilities.
Different facilities will be licensed to different levels of asbestos disposal. So it's important before you just
trundle down to your local landfill that you ensure that they are actually licensed to receive that asbestos that you're looking to dispose of.
The best source of information for that is either the Asbestos Queensland website. There's some good information on there for licensed disposal facilities
or simply contacting your local council.
So they will be able to help as well. Once you've identified your landfill, once you've removed the asbestos,
the asbestos waste has been packed appropriately and it's ready for transport, contact the proposed disposal facility first and inform them that you are arriving and what you are transporting. Now, the reason that's important is because many disposal facilities will have what's called special burial requirements. So they will have a special area on their site, designed to receive that asbestos and they will also cover that with clean fill or a suitable cover once that asbestos has been placed in there. Because the last thing that we would like is once that asbestos has been placed there, that large machinery, compaction machinery drives over the exposed asbestos, breaks apart the plastic coating or plastic sheeting that's been used.
And asbestos fibres are then released into the atmosphere. So contact the disposal facility first and inform them that you are arriving and they'll be able to prepare for that properly.
Once, ensure that asbestos is properly wrapped and identified.
Now, the properly wrapped and identified are actually two conditions that will be listed in the environmental authorities. So to transport, you obtain an environmental authority for reg waste transport. There's specific conditions attached to those.
Some specifically relating to asbestos, others more general. But those conditions include the requirement that the asbestos is wrapped, it's identified as asbestos. And then of course, you've completed your waste tracking documentation.
Once you arrive at the site, make sure you follow all the instructions
from your waybridge operator or the waste disposal manager. They'll direct you to a specific location for you to dispose and make sure you follow those because they're all following their proper procedures on site as well.
And just to reiterate, it cannot be recycled. So the last place that we would like to see asbestos contaminated concrete or asbestos contaminated timber is turning up to a recycler who's then potentially going to crush that material and then on-sell that onto somebody else for another use.
Is there a waste levy on asbestos?
No. So there are specific exemption provisions allowed
in the Waste Production Recycling Act. So that was purposefully done and it goes back to my initial point that asbestos cannot be recycled. So the purpose of the waste levy is to encourage recycling and to improve a higher order use than simply disposing. But with asbestos, the only place that can be put is for disposal. So the waste levy does not apply to asbestos waste. I will say however, in regard to the third point on that slide, the exemption only applies where the waste is lawfully managed and transported.
So if large volumes of asbestos waste arrive at a landfill, the risk is that the waste levy could potentially be applied to that. So certainly would encourage if you are frequently transporting large volumes of asbestos to investigate getting an environmental authority for regulated waste transport.
So in summary, I'm just going to go through those main points. Again, asbestos must be disposed of. So you cannot be recycled no matter how little the asbestos is, it needs to be disposed of properly. It must be done at a licensed waste facility.
So we obtain that information from those websites, the Asbestos Queensland website or your local government.
If you are transporting over the 175 kilograms of material, you will need that licensed transport.
So I would encourage again, any businesses that are regularly undertaking large volumes of asbestos removal, that is highly likely that you'll need to obtain an environmental authority and to contact the department.
Commercial transport does require waste tracking as well.
So you will need to complete some form of waste tracking
for each load. Again, if you're licensed, it just becomes part and parcel of the administration
of that asbestos removal work. And then finally, just to retouch on the waste levy, that there is an exemption for waste levy for asbestos waste being disposed, but it must be lawfully managed and transported. So again, the requirements for transport apply.
Thank you very much, back to you.
- Thanks Tim.
Invaluable information there on the safe transport and disposal of asbestos and the Office of Industrial Relations is proud to work in conjunction with the Department of Environment and Science in the battle against asbestos.
If you do have a question for Tim or any of our speakers, you can submit them now via the chat box. We've got a few to get through already. So it's on the right of your screen. You can grab hold of one of our three wise men and they will answer your queries about asbestos.
The guys have got their microphones and are ready to go. So we might get straight into the panel session. Again, thank you for joining us. We appreciate the questions that have come in.
And the first up is for you, Matt. This is from Ben and Ben would like to know, what should I do if I arrive at a pre 1990 workplace and I do not have an asbestos register, but I suspect it may be present.
- Well, Ben, thanks for the question. So in this situation, there's a couple of duties here. So if you're arriving at a pre 1990 workplace, the person with management and control has a duty to identify asbestos and if asbestos is identified and put a register together, but you just remember, you've got a duty yourself to look after you, the health and safety of yourself and others. So you need to identify asbestos in your work area. And before you start, so my recommendation here is, don't start the work until you're satisfied that all asbestos has been identified in your place of work.
- Okay, thank you. Let's move on to our second question and Brendan, this one's pitched at you and Lauren asks, can you anonymously report a company's non-compliance or suspected non-compliance with asbestos? - Thanks, Lauren. Yes, you absolutely can anonymously submit a complaint to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.
However, keep in mind that depending upon how much information you provide, this can limit the amount of inquiries an inspector can make. What you can also do is request confidentiality when you're making a submission to OAR. Now that means that your information will be provided to the inspector so that they can contact you for more information. However, your information will not be shared with the duty holders.
- Okay, thank you.
Our third question again for you, Brendan. Peter in the chat wants to know, a question regarding workplaces that had previously had asbestos materials and an asbestos register. Once all the asbestos has been removed from the site and the asbestos register has been updated to state that no more asbestos is present on site, is there any further ongoing responsibility on the PCBU to have the site re-inspected every five years under the Act or the Code of Practice? - Yeah, Peter. So if your workplace has had all asbestos removed, you still need an asbestos register accessible at the workplace that states that. However, there wouldn't be a requirement to have the re-inspection done in accordance with the regulation. It's also important to keep in mind that there are a lot of limitations in these asbestos surveys. So just because they haven't found any asbestos does not mean that there's no asbestos within inaccessible areas or hidden within the workplace. So if there are extensive refurbishment works or demolition works to be undertaken, you absolutely should be looking to engage a competent person again to come back to site and do a pre-demolition or pre-refurbishment survey where they make a lot more intrusive investigations into the building and structure.
- Excellent, yep.
I have a question now for you, Tim. This has come from James.
How do I apply for an environmental authority?
Can I talk to someone if I have questions? Obviously, they wanna do the right thing.
So what's available for them? - Absolutely, thank you for the question, James. The easiest thing, we have a hotline, 1300 130372.
And to contact that hotline and seek that information, option four will go through to the permits and licensing section so they can talk that through. There is a huge amount of information available on the Department of Environment's website as well. So I'd encourage you looking up,
yeah, look up that information on the web,
call that hotline and there'll be more than enough people to answer those questions, thank you. - Excellent.
We've got one that's coming from Graham R. for Brendan.
If we have leased premises with known asbestos and an asbestos register where the lease states, the leasee must ensure any construction maintenance work
complies with all legal requirements, do we as the landlord still have any ongoing responsibilities?
- Thanks Graham. So yes, you are unable to contract out your duties under the Work Health and Safety Act. So the duty still falls on the persons with management and control of the workplace. Now, as a landlord, you will still have elements of management and control of the workplace as will the persons that are renting the workplace from you. It's also important to understand that you have a duty to consult under the act as well. So that means consulting with your tenants about all health and safety matters.
I have a question here that is a generic one and I reckon this is probably you, Matt.
If I turn up to a work site and I'm asked to paint a wall that I suspect has asbestos, as the worker, what are my rights? Can I point out that I'm not comfortable doing this or is it safe to go ahead and paint that wall? - So absolutely. So as a worker, like we said before, you have a duty for your own health and safety and that as others. So if you have any concerns about an area you've been asked to working and you're unsure if asbestos is present, you absolutely have a right to seek confirmation that no asbestos is present before you start that activity. So yeah, always ask questions and if in doubt, don't start the task. - Again, a technical one as a follow-up to that.
How damaged is damaged? We talk about the fibres being released
and we've got to work with this substance.
Is just a hole in the wall dangerous if you're going to work around it and in particular as a business? - So I suppose there's a couple of things here. We need to make sure that asbestos has been identified in the workplace. So as Brendan mentioned before in his presentation, that's going to be by use of labels, for example. If there's damage to the surface of the material, depending on the task that you're conducting, but certainly as we mentioned for painting earlier, anything like a slightly peeling paint can be removed. But if we're seeing something that's got holes, penetrations, it's heavily weathered, we don't want to be disturbing that material. And again, I'd go back to the person with management and control and discuss your concerns with them.
- Another question that's arisen here. What are the most common asbestos issues that inspectors see when they visit businesses for audits and inspections? - Thanks Chris. So specifically about asbestos management, I think we've identified from our current campaign that the most common issues are about clearly indicating the presence of asbestos. So that is again, installing labels where it's reasonably practicable to do so on the actual asbestos containing materials or within the immediate vicinity.
And then also not having asbestos registers and management plans available
and reviewed in accordance with the law.
- Our final question, I think,
what are the most common challenges tradies have when trying to identify asbestos containing materials? So my idea would be not every trade is gonna be able to identify clearly and safely. What do we do when it's a bit gray?
- So I suppose as a tradesperson, you do have some challenges, you're up against it some of the times with I suppose time pressures. But again, we wanna be making sure that people are asking questions before they start work. Again, what we were saying before, you've got your age-based risk assessment of the age of the structure or the building where you might be asked to work. And just to reiterate the sort of the thing from before is if in doubt, don't start the work until you're satisfied that all asbestos has been identified in your work area. - So if you're not sure and you're gonna send it away to be tested, is it then your prerogative to say, well, we can't start work, we may have to delay this project until it is tested and the results come back? - Absolutely, it's always safer to assume that the material contains asbestos and to a laboratory testing has come back and proven otherwise. And it's important to remember, I think, that ultimately asbestos safety, it begins with you.
- One final tip from each one of you as we wind up our webinar today.
Let's go around the table. Tim, you can open the batting for this one. One final suggestion from you. One tip.
- I love it when you put me on the spot. - I like it. - Thank you very much.
One final tip. I guess be aware of your obligations when removing asbestos and that your obligations aren't solely health and safety. That's incredibly important, but there are environmental obligations as well. - Oh, we've got one last question here, I think. - For me. - Yeah, and it is for you. See, the waste tracking form that is required for any amount of asbestos to be transported, does it matter if it's friable or non-friable? - No, asbestos is asbestos is asbestos. So regardless of whether it's friable or non-friable, yes, the waste tracking provisions apply, as do the license transport requirements too. - Can I say thanks very much, Mark, for the very late question. - Thank you, Mark.
- Matt, over to you. Your one final tip for everyone to take away. - What I would say is just remember that asbestos was used in thousands of products. So when you're in a workplace, it's not just gonna be fibro sheeting. So familiarise yourself where what materials contained asbestos, where asbestos could be located. And we've got some good photographs and information on our Queensland dedicated asbestos information website. - And Brendan, bring us home. - Thanks, Chris. As I said before, for all those members of the audience listening, asbestos safety, it begins with you. - Excellent. Great advice from our three speakers. And I'd like to give one final thanks to Brendan, Matt and Tim for joining us here today. And for you for taking time out to join us here on this very interesting topic of asbestos safety for your questions and your participation in today's webinar. Just as a reminder, you can visit asbestos.qld.gov.au to access resources and other guidance material to learn more about asbestos. Today's session was recorded so you can watch it again using the same link that you used to join us here earlier and then please share it with your friends and colleagues as well. We will also be uploading this recording to the website asbestos.qld.gov.au in the coming weeks. A link to complete a short and anonymous survey about this session will be emailed to you tomorrow. There's also a QR code on the screen now to access the survey. Your feedback is important to us. It's used to improve future events. So please, if you can take the two minutes of your time to complete that survey. Again, on behalf of Workplace Health and Safety and of course the Office of Industrial Relations, thanks for joining us. I hope you enjoyed the asbestos for business session. And remember there's another session tomorrow all about asbestos, which is specifically aimed at homeowners, DIYers, and looking at where asbestos containing materials are commonly found in homes. That's it for today. And as always, we leave you with this message. Work safe, home safe.