VIC: regulator encourages asbestos workers to get medical checks

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.
Friday, 25 November, 2022 - 12:45
Industry news

WorkSafe Victoria recently issued a reminder to employers to play it safe when dealing with material that contains asbestos and to ensure they are meeting their legal obligations.

Employers are legally required to identify any asbestos-containing material in a workplace. Asbestos removal licence holders are required to notify WorkSafe prior to any removal works, display appropriate signage, and ensure workers are wearing personal protective equipment during its removal.

Employers must also arrange medical examinations for all workers engaged in ongoing asbestos-related activities where there is a risk of exposure to airborne asbestos fibres in excess of the exposure standard.

Licensed asbestos removalists must arrange medical checks for all workers tasked with asbestos removal.

Asbestos Awareness Week, which runs from 21 to 27 November this year, carries the theme ‘think twice about asbestos’ and asks businesses to “do it the right way” by ensuring the proper and lawful disposal of asbestos-containing material.

Despite the dangers, WorkSafe continues to catch employers flouting the rules, and recent asbestos-related prosecutions include:

  • Bayside Demolition: fined $25,000 after, among other things, it failed to ensure workers were wearing required personal protective equipment for asbestos removal, and for a lack of barricading and appropriate signage.
  • Fivestar Demolition & Render: fined $20,000 after a director of the company – which was not a licensed asbestos removalist – ordered workers to demolish a house before asbestos-containing material was removed as required under OHS regulations and against the direction of the site’s principal contractor.
  • Carton Finishing: fined $20,000 after it failed to ensure that the presence and location of asbestos in its workplace were clearly indicated.

WorkSafe Victoria executive director of health and safety Narelle Beer said asbestos-containing material remained a significant safety risk.

“Asbestos Awareness Week is a time for employers to take stock of their obligations regarding asbestos and ensure they are not putting any workers or members of the public at risk,” Beer said.

“The ramifications for not following the rules can include serious disease or even death, which is why WorkSafe regularly conducts proactive asbestos inspections.”