Everyone has heard of asbestos at some point in their lives, whether they have been affected by it or not. Exposure to asbestos can have deadly consequences, significant exposure to this substance is a catalyst for mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer occurring in the lungs.
“Australia has the second highest rate of mesothelioma in the world”
Asbestos is a mineral fibre that occurs naturally in six distinct types, and is often found in Australian homes and structures. Such a potentially hazardous substance requires considerable care during handling, and it is essential that those working in construction are aware of the risks involved.
“Estimated that one third of all Australian homes contain asbestos”
Why is asbestos such a problem in Australia?
Given the perceived versatility of asbestos, it was widely used in a number of industries and throughout the construction industry for a number of years before concerns about the safety of it were brought to light. One third of Australia homes are thought to contain asbestos, despite Government initiatives that have been in place for some time to remove the materials.
Where is asbestos found?
Building materials that contain asbestos can be divided into two distinct categories; friable and non-friable, both of which pose significant hazard to those handling these materials. The most common form of asbestos is the non-friable asbestos which was mixed into cement.
Australia as a country is growing year on year. In Sydney there is a massive housing shortage at the moment which is increasingly seeing old properties knocked down and replaced with new modern dwellings. Old houses often replaced with multi-storey unit blocks to keep up with the high demand for more residential properties on the market and in densely populated suburbs and areas.
Asbestos risks for trades people
Despite the new regulations surrounding asbestos being in place for thirty years, construction workers are still finding themselves being exposed and as a result are having problems associated with the exposure.
Education around asbestos exposure and correct handling isn’t mandatory in Australia, apart from in the ACT where training in this area is mandatory. So where does the responsibility lie when it comes down to asbestos exposure on building sites? According to Safe Work Australia, the Work Health and Safety Act (2011) states that:
“The person conducting a business or undertaking must also ensure so far as is reasonably practicable that exposure of a person at the workplace to airborne asbestos is eliminated.”
Whoever is running the building site, whether it be the construction company, builder or private organisation have an obligation to ensure that all of the workers on the site are aware of any asbestos-related dangers, as well as taking steps to ensure that exposure is eliminated or at least minimised to a safe level.
What can I do to learn more and be safe?
You can take the 10314NAT Course in Asbestos Awareness – this is a legislative requirement i the ACT, but is a nationally recognised certification. It will provide you with the skills and knowledge required to safely work around asbestos.
At BriX Projects labour hire safety is our number one priority and we ensure that all of our employees are provided with safe working conditions.