A crackdown on unsafe asbestos removal practices is underway in South Australia.
In a statement released last week, the Environmental Protection Authority and SafeWork SA say that together, they are undertaking audits of the state’s licensed asbestos removalists to ensure safe practices at depots and work sites.
“We cannot underestimate the harmful effects of asbestos fibres, and that is why Australia banned its production, importation and use many years ago,” SafeWork SA executive director Juanita Lovatt says. “The safe removal of asbestos – from identification to disposal – is crucial not just for the occupants of buildings and homes where it is found, but for the workers who must carry out the job.”
The review follows federal government moves to establish a new national body tasked with formulating a nationwide asbestos removal strategy.
Asbestos was used widely throughout Australia throughout much of the 20th century. Because of this, SafeWork SA says, the nation has the highest reported per capita incidence of asbestos-related diseases in the world.
Lovatt says the review focuses on making sure asbestos removalists are complying with the terms and conditions of their license – rules which she says exist to address known risks and reduce illness and death from inhaling asbestos fibres.
Of prime concern to the regulators, she says, are practices such as illegal removal of asbestos or any unsafe transport or dumping of the material.
“Those who fail to meet their licensing obligations will be issued with appropriate compliance notices,” Lovatt says.
The first phase of the audits is expected to be completed by January, 2013. The findings will be provided to industry and stakeholders to help the industry improve health and safety.