Asbestos Management for Government Departments

March 27, 2023

Sebastian Tiller

Government departments are another series of buildings where asbestos may be present. The buildings where these government departments operate were built prior to the complete ban of asbestos in construction in 2003, meaning that there may still be asbestos containing materials (ACMs) present. 

In this article, we will discuss how asbestos can be managed in government departments.

Why is asbestos a concern for government departments?

Asbestos is a concern for government departments because it is a hazardous material that can cause serious health problems. When ACMs are disturbed or damaged, they can release asbestos fibers into the air, which can be inhaled and cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

Government departments have a responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace for their employees and to protect the public from health hazards. Failure to manage asbestos properly can lead to legal and financial consequences, as well as reputational damage.

Why is proper asbestos management important?

Proper asbestos management is important for several reasons, such as;

  • Protecting the health of a building’s occupants
  • Ensuring compliance with government regulations
  • Minimising legal liability and protecting the reputation of a government department
  • Protecting the surrounding environment

What are the asbestos regulations and standards for government departments?

The management of ACMs in government departments in Australia is governed by a range of regulations and standards at both the federal and state levels. 

Some of the key regulations and standards include:

Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations

The WHS Regulations require that all asbestos-containing materials in a workplace be identified and that a plan is developed to manage the risks associated with the asbestos. The regulations also outline requirements for the safe handling, removal, and disposal of ACMs.

Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA)

The ASEA is a federal agency that is responsible for implementing and overseeing the National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Management and Awareness. The plan aims to reduce the risks associated with asbestos exposure and improve the management of ACMs in Australia.

Code of Practice for the Management and Control of Asbestos in Workplaces

The Code of Practice provides guidance on how to identify and manage ACMs in the workplace. It outlines the responsibilities of employers, employees, and contractors in managing asbestos and provides information on safe work practices, including personal protective equipment and control measures.

State and Territory Regulations

Each state and territory in Australia has its own regulations governing the management of asbestos-containing materials. These regulations may include requirements for licensing of asbestos removalists, notification of asbestos removal work, and reporting of incidents involving asbestos.

To find asbestos regulations by state, we recommend you consult your relevant State Government Health and Safety website;

What are the responsibilities of government departments in managing asbestos?

Australian government departments have a range of responsibilities when it comes to managing asbestos-containing materials in their facilities, including;

  • Identification and assessment of ACMs
  • Implementation of an asbestos management plan
  • Provision of information and training
  • Safe handling and removal of ACMs
  • Record keeping and reporting

How do government departments identify ACMs?

There are several ways that Australian government departments can identify ACMs in their facilities. These include the following;

Conducting asbestos audits and surveys

An asbestos audit or survey is a comprehensive assessment of a building or facility to identify and record all asbestos-containing materials present. The survey may involve a visual inspection, sampling of suspected materials, and laboratory analysis to confirm the presence of asbestos.

Creating, maintaining and updating records and documentation

Many buildings constructed before the mid-1980s may have records or documentation indicating the use of asbestos-containing materials in their construction. This documentation may include building plans, specifications, and maintenance records.

Organising visual inspections and assessments

Trained personnel can visually identify and assess suspected asbestos-containing materials through a visual inspection. This method involves identifying materials that have certain physical characteristics, such as being fibrous or having a chalky appearance.

Compiling information from manufacturers and suppliers

Manufacturers and suppliers of building materials may have information about the presence of asbestos in their products. This information can be used to identify potential sources of asbestos in a building.

Once asbestos-containing materials have been identified, they must be assessed to determine their condition and whether they pose a risk of exposure to asbestos fibres. 

If they do pose a risk, an asbestos management plan must be developed to manage the risks associated with the ACMs. The plan may involve monitoring, sealing off, or removal of theACMs, depending on the condition and location of the materials.

What does an asbestos management plan for a government department contain?

An asbestos management plan for a government department needs to outline the strategies, procedures, and control measures that will be implemented to manage the risks associated with ACMs in the department's facilities.

Its key components include;

  • Introduction and scope which provides an overview of the plan and outlines the scope of work that will be undertaken to manage asbestos in the department's facilities.
  • The roles and responsibilities of all personnel involved in managing asbestos in the department's facilities, including management, contractors, and workers.
  • Asbestos registers for all ACMs in the department's facilities, including their location, condition, and any closing off or removal work that has been carried out.
  • The risk assessment process that will be used to assess the risks associated with ACMs in the department's facilities. This may include assessing the condition and location of the ACMs, the likelihood of exposure, and the potential health effects of exposure.
  • The control measures that will be implemented to manage the risks associated with ACMs in the department's facilities. This may include encapsulation, ongoing monitoring, removal, or other control measures depending on the condition and location of the ACMs.
  • The training and communication strategies that will be used to ensure that all personnel are aware of the risks associated with asbestos and how to manage them safely.
  • The procedures that will be followed in the event of an emergency involving asbestos, such as a release of fibres or accidental damage to ACMs.

The AMP should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis to ensure that it remains up-to-date and effective in managing the risks associated with asbestos in the department's facilities.

How do government departments conduct asbestos removal?

Government departments in Australia must engage licensed and experienced asbestos removal contractors to carry out asbestos removal work in their facilities. The removal of ACMs must be carried out in accordance with strict regulations and standards to ensure the safety of workers, building occupants, and the environment.

Before experienced professionals conduct the removal of ACMs, the head of the government department needs to coordinate the following;

  • The asbestos management plan
  • Setting up of the work area with clear signage and wayfinding
  • The provision of personal protective equipment

Can Octfolio help with asbestos management for government departments?

Yes, as Octfolio is an asbestos software solution that helps government departments organise all of their ACM information, where it can be easily stored, updated and accessed.

Octfolio, gives you every function required to successfully handle all aspects of ACM management, such as;

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Sebastian Tiller

Seb has a long history of delivering elegant solutions to complex business problems that conform to the most exacting compliance standards. He prides himself on his ability to connect with customers and humanise software solutions to be understandable and useful to all parties. He’s also enjoys playing story-based single player games and spending time with his young family, building LEGO, attending recitals, and experiencing new restaurants with his wife.

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