15/04/2010 - 00:00

Changes to asbestos removal legislation

15/04/2010 - 00:00

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THE Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia has welcomed the strengthening of Western Australia’s occupational health and safety laws aimed at ensuring only licensed workers with the proper skills can remove asbestos.

Changes to asbestos removal legislation

THE Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia has welcomed the strengthening of Western Australia’s occupational health and safety laws aimed at ensuring only licensed workers with the proper skills can remove asbestos.

From June 1, workers removing more than 10 square metres of bonded asbestos in the workplace, including asbestos cement material, will need to have completed an approved training course and hold an asbestos licence.

The additional requirements (the previous size was 200sqm) came after the Commission for Occupational Safety and Health in 2007 recommended the changes to the state government.

The new law encompasses bonded asbestos, the type commonly found in suburban fences, house walls and eves.

Under WA’s Occupational Safety & Health Act, an employer can be fined up to $25,000 if found to have unsafely removed asbestos, and up to $100,000 if they were found not to have provided a safe workplace.

WorkSafe commissioner Nina Lyhne said the changes complement a national code of practice for the safe removal of asbestos that has been in existence for many years.

They would ensure only workers with the required knowledge, skills and safe systems of work would be able to remove the hazardous material.

Ms Lyhne said the laws were an additional requirement to existing stringent WA laws that aim to improve compliance with the code.

“With licensing it becomes an opportunity for WorkSafe to make sure people who are engaged in the activity actually do understand the code of practice and have had the appropriate training,” she said.

Ms Lyhne said Western Australians have the “sad legacy of Wittenoom” to remind them of the potential hazards of asbestos.

President of Osborne Park-based ADSA, Robert Vojakovic, welcomed the changes.

“I fully support the changes but I don’t think any laws will ever completely stamp out the unlicensed [asbestos] removalists that still run around,” he said.

“With these changes we need more punitive damages; if people are caught I think we need to go to court because I think that the monetary fines are totally inappropriate. I reckon there should be a jail measure.”

Ms Lyne agreed, but said fines needed to be consistent with the level of concern.

Owner of Thunderstruck Asbestos Removal Company, Gordon Barr, said while public awareness of the dangers of asbestos had improved over the years, there were still rogue traders in WA removing the material incorrectly.

“Asbestos removal is a specialised business, and you need a reliable and experienced company to do the job,” he said. “Don’t trust any removal work by unlicensed cowboys. What you save now, you will pay for later.

“Experienced companies give you experienced work; non-experienced companies give non-experienced work, it’s that simple.”

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