Monday 25 November is the start of National Asbestos Awareness Week and regulators are calling on employers to avoid being complacent about the dangers of harmful asbestos fibres.
While the work health and safety arrangements in place across Australia have resulted in strong protections for workers against the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres, it is important to remain vigilant to its presence and associated dangers, said SafeWork SA.
With the theme of “Asbestos lurks in more places than you’d think”, the regulator jointed with hundreds of government and non-government organisations in encouraging Australians to be aware of where asbestos might be found.
It is estimated that 4,000 Australians are dying from asbestos-related diseases every year, and at the height of its use, asbestos was in over 3000 products – and many of these products are still contained in homes and workplaces.
Inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause a range of deadly diseases including mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer.
There is no cure and prognosis is extremely poor, and most people diagnosed with mesothelioma die from it.
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) home renovators have been a group at risk of exposure, said SafeWork SA, which noted that this is especially true for those in construction, maintenance and manufacturing, plumbers, electricians and the vehicle trades.
Work health and safety laws need to be strictly followed, the regulator said.
To prevent exposure to asbestos fibres, it is crucial that workers do not work with asbestos, except as allowed under the laws.
“Importantly, anyone handling asbestos in the workplace must be properly trained,” the regulator said.
“It is also a timely reminder to make sure that workplace asbestos registers and management plans are up-to-date.”