What To Do If You Suspect Asbestos Presence in Your Workplace?

asbestos danger sign

Asbestos, once a widely used building material, is now known to pose significant and very serious health risks. In Australia, where asbestos was commonly used in construction until the late 1980s, the presence of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in workplaces is a serious concern. Suspecting asbestos in your workplace can be unsettling, but knowing how to respond is crucial for protecting the health and safety of everyone involved. In this guide, we will explore what to do if you suspect asbestos in your workplace, outlining steps to take and resources available to assist you. Then keep reading to discover how environmental consulting can help with asbestos and other environmental concerns.

Recognising Potential Asbestos Materials

The first step in addressing a suspected asbestos presence is to recognise materials that may contain asbestos. Common ACMs found in Australian workplaces include:

  • Insulation (e.g. pipe lagging)
  • Ceiling and floor tiles
  • Roofing materials (e.g. corrugated asbestos cement sheets)
  • Textured coatings (e.g. sprayed-on insulation)
  • Cement products (e.g. fibro sheeting)

If your workplace contains any of these materials and they are damaged, deteriorating, or have been disturbed, there is a possibility that asbestos fibres may be present in the air.

Immediate Actions to Take

If you suspect asbestos in your workplace, it’s essential to take immediate action to minimise exposure risks:

Stop Work: Cease any activities that may disturb suspected asbestos materials to prevent further fibre release.

Isolate the Area: Restrict access to the suspected asbestos area to prevent inadvertent exposure.

Inform Management: Report your concerns to the appropriate person in your workplace, such as a supervisor, manager, or health and safety representative.

Seek Expert Advice: Contact a licensed asbestos assessor or removalist to assess the situation and conduct testing if necessary.

Conducting Asbestos Testing

Asbestos testing is crucial for confirming the presence of asbestos and determining the extent of contamination. In Australia, only accredited professionals are authorised to conduct asbestos testing using approved methods. These professionals will collect samples of suspected materials and analyse them in a laboratory to identify any asbestos fibres present.

Risk Assessment and Management

Once asbestos has been confirmed, a comprehensive risk assessment is necessary to evaluate the potential hazards and implement appropriate control measures. This assessment should consider factors such as the condition of the asbestos-containing materials, the likelihood of fibre release, and the level of exposure risk to workers and occupants.

Based on the risk assessment, control measures may include:

  • Implementing engineering controls to prevent fibre release (e.g., encapsulation or enclosure)
  • Providing personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers
  • Establishing safe work practices and procedures for handling asbestos-containing materials
  • Developing an asbestos management plan to monitor and manage risks over time

Compliance with Regulations

In Australia, asbestos management is governed by strict regulations to protect the health and safety of workers and the public. The primary legislation governing asbestos management is the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2011, along with its associated regulations and codes of practice.

Businesses and individuals involved in asbestos management must comply with these regulations, which include requirements for:

  • Conducting risk assessments and implementing control measures
  • Using licensed asbestos assessors and removalists for testing and removal work
  • Providing training and supervision to workers involved in asbestos-related activities
  • Properly disposing of asbestos waste at designated facilities

Seeking Assistance and Support

Dealing with asbestos in the workplace can be complex and challenging. Fortunately, there are resources and assistance available to help you navigate the process:

SafeWork Australia: Provides guidance and resources on asbestos management and compliance with Workplace Health and Safety regulations.

Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA): Offers information and support for asbestos awareness and management initiatives.

Licensed Asbestos Professionals: Accredited asbestos assessors and removalists can provide expert advice and assistance in assessing and managing asbestos risks.

Consulting with asbestos professionals if you suspect asbestos in the workplace is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, asbestos exposure can lead to severe health consequences, including lung cancer and mesothelioma, making early detection and management imperative. Secondly, consulting with experts ensures compliance with strict regulations governing asbestos management, reducing the risk of legal penalties and reputational damage. Additionally, professional consultation helps assess the extent of asbestos contamination accurately, enabling the implementation of effective control measures to protect workers and occupants. Ultimately, consulting with asbestos problems empowers organisations to prioritise health and safety, fostering a safer and healthier workplace environment for all.

Do You Need Environmental Consulting in Melbourne?

Look no further than Alpha Environmental. Our expert environmental consultants are ready to help with all your environmental needs, from asbestos or mould to groundwater or soil contamination. Backed by over two decades of experience, we are proud to provide you with comprehensive environmental solutions alongside exceptional customer service.

When you need environmental consulting in Melbourne, contact us at 1300 039 181 or fill out our online contact form and we will get back to you.