Toolbox Talks – Asbestos Awareness.
The Asbestos Education Committee, in alignment with this year’s National Asbestos Awareness Week, has announced the release of new resources aimed to prevent asbestos-related diseases.
From November 21 to 27, National Asbestos Awareness Week highlights the importance of safe practice when working with asbestos. More than 4,000 Australian’s die each year from asbestos-related diseases and of these, many have been exposed to asbestos fibres in the workplace.
To better inform workers of asbestos risks, the Asbestos Education Committee developed a series of Asbestos Awareness Toolbox Talks to help employers promote compliance with Work Health and Safety (WH&S) regulations to prevent unnecessary exposure to asbestos fibres.
Phillip Smith, Group Executive, Environmental, Health, Safety and Quality at SHAPE Australia and a member of the Asbestos Education Committee said, “Short weekly Toolbox Talks are an effective and essential communication and consultation tool to ensure WH&S best practice in the workplace.”
“By taking a proactive approach and reinforcing important health and safety information among workers on a regular basis, employers can maintain regulatory compliance and build a culture of health and safety that protects workers from injury and health risks including exposure to asbestos fibres.
“Although not a substitute for asbestos awareness or compliance training, this unique series of Asbestos Awareness Toolbox Talks will assist employers in reminding workers and contractors about the dangers of asbestos and their significant responsibility to manage it safely.”
According to the Asbestos Education Committee, before a complete ban on asbestos came into force in Australia in December 2003, Australia was among the highest consumers of asbestos-containing materials in the world resulting in Australia now having extensive legacy asbestos. Asbestos-containing materials remain hidden in one third of Australian homes built before 1990 and in commercial and non-residential properties built prior to 2004.
Clare Collins, Chair of the Asbestos Education Committee and Director of the National Asbestos Awareness campaign since 2011 said, “Because tradies and workers are at risk of coming into contact with asbestos-containing materials in their day-to-day work, if they don’t know what to look for or how to manage asbestos safely, they can unknowingly disturb asbestos and put their lives and the lives of others at risk.”
“As long as asbestos remains an ever-present danger in Australian homes and commercial and non-residential properties; preventing exposure among one third of Australian workers must be a significant priority if we aim to minimise Australia’s Third Wave of asbestos-related diseases.
“By developing a suite of Asbestos Awareness Toolbox Talks to assist contractors and businesses in the building and renovation industries to regularly remind workers of the importance of compliance with WH&S regulations relating to asbestos, we aim to protect workers from becoming a statistic of asbestos-related deaths.”
Asbestos-containing material could be lurking under floor coverings including carpets, linoleum and vinyl tiles, behind wall and floor tiles, in cement floors, internal and external walls, ceilings and ceiling space (insulation), eaves, roofs, around hot water pipes, fences, home extensions, garages, outdoor toilets, backyard and farm structures, chook sheds and even dog kennels.
If disturbed during maintenance, renovation or demolition and invisible fibres are released that can be inhaled, this can lead to asbestos-related diseases including asbestosis, lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma.
According to the Australian Mesothelioma Registry’s (AMR) report Mesothelioma in Australia 2020, published November 2021, men were more likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma than women across all age groups with the number of cases diagnosed each year for both men and women steadily increasing over the past 40 years.
A survey of workers diagnosed with mesothelioma conducted by the AMR showed that 85 per cent of those who’d worked as a plumber or gasfitter, 84 per cent in electrical trades, and 85 per cent in building industry trades were assessed as having had probable exposure in those jobs. For the majority the level of exposure was classified as ‘high’.
In addition to the known group of effected workers there’s a wide range of trades that could be vulnerable to asbestos if they don’t know the risks or how to manage it safely from installers of kitchens and bathrooms to painters, wallpaper hangers and decorators.
The Asbestos Awareness Toolbox Talks are designed to complement the range of resources for tradies and workers already freely available from asbestosawareness.com.au/tradies.
For those working in the commercial and non-residential property sector, the Asbestos Management Handbook for Commercial & Non-Residential Properties is a valuable tool complemented by a suite of templates providing property owners, managers and contractors with the essential resources they need to meet compliance standards.
Before taking up tools, respect asbestos and find out what you need to know by visiting asbestosawareness.com.au because it’s not worth the risk.