20 years since asbestos was banned, but the risk still remains
National Asbestos Awareness Week, from 20-26 November 2023, reminds Australians to ‘Think Twice About Asbestos’.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Australia’s complete ban of asbestos which took effect on 31 December 2003. But there are still millions of tonnes of asbestos materials that remain in our built environment, hiding in our homes, hospitals, schools and workplaces. These materials are now between 30 to over 100 years old, which means they are deteriorating and increasing the risk of releasing dangerous asbestos fibres.
At greatest risk of exposure to asbestos fibres are those who undertake asbestos removal or carry out, repairs, maintenance or renovation work on buildings that were built before 1990. One in three homes across Australia still have asbestos.
Work health and safety laws prohibit work involving asbestos, apart from specific circumstances where strict safety rules must be followed. If you are not sure whether a material contains asbestos, don’t touch it. And don’t work with asbestos if you are not trained to do so or do not have the right tools and protective equipment. To stay safe at a job, follow these steps:
1. Check up.
If the building is a workplace, check the asbestos register. If it is a home that was built before 1990, it is likely to contain asbestos. Know what you need to do to be safe and if necessary, call a licensed asbestos professional.
2. Gear up.
Before starting work, plan ahead and protect yourself with the right equipment. Always use work practices that will prevent or minimise the release of asbestos fibres into the air.
3. Clean up.
Leave the site clean and dispose of asbestos waste at a licensed facility. Fines apply for not doing the right thing.
Tragically, an estimated 4,000 Australians still die each year from asbestos-related diseases, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. That’s more than three times the road toll. Never cut corners with asbestos, it’s not worth the risk.
ECAWA are proud to partner with Reflections – an organisation dedicated to raising awareness of the ongoing risk of asbestos and supporting people affected by asbestos-related disease.
If you’re interested in learning more about their work and how they can support your team in spreading this important message, please do not hesitate to reach out.
1800 031 731
Further information on how to prevent asbestos exposure is available at Asbestos - Frequently asked questions | Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (commerce.wa.gov.au)