Government flags importance of asbestos awareness week

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Sunday, 28 November, 2021 - 12:30
Policy & legislation
New South Wales

To mark national asbestos awareness week the NSW Government recently reminded the community that workplaces, homes and other public or commercial buildings constructed before 1990 have a good chance of containing harmful asbestos.

NSW Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson said the theme of this year’s National Asbestos Week is “think twice about asbestos, it’s in one-in-three homes” as a reminder for people to be careful when dealing with the dangerous substance.

“Many older houses have been built using materials containing asbestos and when it is in good condition it poses little health risk. But when cut or drilled, small asbestos fibres are created which can be inhaled, potentially leading to harmful asbestos-related diseases,” Minister Anderson said.

“Tragically in NSW, we are very aware of how dangerous this product can be. In 2020/21 there were 333 people diagnosed with a dust disease due to exposure in a workplace. This is down from 472 the previous year but it is still not a good number.

“The NSW Government carries out regular compliance activities to ensure that people are working with asbestos in a safe way and we are offering education across industries to inform people about the risks associated with asbestos removal.

“People working with asbestos should conduct asbestos awareness training and wear appropriate PPE at all times.”

The NSW Government has received 27,321 notifications about the removal of asbestos last year but not all people are getting their processes right.

Inspectors also issued more than 500 improvement notices, 162 prohibition notices and 53 penalty notices to the asbestos removal and demolition industries.