The response to WorkSafe’s Asbestos regulations has been lukewarm at best. The government’s two year grace period has come and gone in the blink of an eye, and we’re left with too many buildings yet to be surveyed for asbestos and too many companies who don’t know where to start. Unfortunately, as Prendos New Zealand Ltd Asbestos Team Leader Freddy Kruger explains, ignorance won’t cut it as a defense when WorkSafe inspectors start poking around in a couple of months.
“As a PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) if you know or ought to reasonably know there is a risk of exposure to respirable asbestos fibres in your workplace (in any building built prior to 2000), you MUST make sure, so far as reasonably practicable, that all asbestos or ACM (asbestos-containing materials) in the workplace relating to the risk is identified. This does not apply to soil in the workplace unless you, as PCBU, have reasonable cause to suspect asbestos contaminated soil is present.”
“You can’t contract out of it or insure against the penalties that may come your way – set at a hefty $50,000 per infringement. The only workplaces to avoid the legislation are those constructed after the arbitrary ‘line in the sand’ of 31 December 1999 – despite the fact that asbestos was only fully banned here in October 2016!”
So if you’re still wondering ‘does this apply to me’ and ‘what happens next’, Kruger answers some of the questions that could be stopping you from getting your workplace sorted below.
What is a PCBU?
A PCBU is a ‘Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking’. In this case, it’s the person in charge of the workplace where asbestos may be present, including landlords. A PCBU could be an organization or an individual (not including workers or officers of PCBUs, volunteer organisations, or home occupiers employing a tradesperson for residential work).
What’s the purpose of an Asbestos Survey?
The survey report provides accurate information about the type, location, amount and condition of asbestos in your workplace (an Asbestos Register). It will also help you decide if remedial action is required, and allow a workplace Asbestos Management Plan to be prepared.
What’s so dangerous about Asbestos?
Asbestos is a major health threat to millions of people around the world and is the single biggest cause of work-related disease deaths in New Zealand. When inhaled, asbestos fibres lodge in the lungs and can cause diseases like asbestos is, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The health risks increase the more fibres you inhale, the more frequent/intense your exposure and when you’re exposed over a long period of time.
Who is qualified to help me?
You’re best to engage a licensed asbestos assessor and surveyor like the team at Prendos as we have the training, qualifications and experience required by the Regulations. But you can also contact a qualified occupational hygienist with asbestos training, an asbestos removal supervisor, a person nominated by an IANZ accredited laboratory, or someone who has passed the unit of competency for asbestos surveyors (IP402).
Before you commission an Asbestos Survey, make sure you:
- Find out what type of survey is right for your business and what the surveyor requires from you.
- Make sure the asbestos surveyor has sufficient training, qualifications, knowledge and experience to sample and identify asbestos.
- Ensure the surveyor is independent and uses a quality management system.
- Understand what should be in the report and what you need to check to make sure it’s accurate and complete.
What are my options if asbestos is identified at my property?
Under the Regulations, if asbestos is identified at your workplace you’ll require a Management Plan to be in place from 4 April 2018. This will outline a solution for managing the asbestos. At best, it can be left in place and nothing needs to be done. At worst, it may have to be removed by specialist asbestos removers under controlled conditions.
All Asbestos Management Plans must be kept up to date, so you’ll need to get a re-inspection at least every five years, or if anything changes in/on the building (a new roof, walls or bathroom etc).
How long will it take to get an Asbestos Survey done and a Management Plan in place?
It depends on the number, size and complexity of the building(s), but inspection should take place within a week of contacting a Surveyor. The report should then be issued a few days after receipt of the final laboratory certificates.
The Management Plan will vary in complexity depending on the type, location and amount of asbestos identified, as well as the nature of your building and occupier requirements. Prendos will typically deliver a Management Plan for a small to medium size building (around 300m²) within a week of the Asbestos Survey Report. So, from instruction, a Management Plan could be made available within 3 – 4 weeks for a relatively straightforward small to medium sized building.
How much does it cost to get an Asbestos Management Plan in place?
Fees vary from $1,200 for a small residential house to tens of thousands for larger, more complex jobs. As an example, a 300m² factory should cost in the region of $2k – $3k, depending on complexity.
Did You Know?
- Asbestos was once used to filter beer and to clarify the finish in wine.
- Blue asbestos was used in gas masks as a filtering component during World War One.
- Asbestos is still used by well known manufacturers of talcum / baby powder.