White Card News: National Asbestos Agency Launched

Good news for all Australians but especially those involved in renovation and demolition work, legislation has just been introduced to parliament for the establishment of an Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency. The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Minister Shorten, announced the legislation a few weeks ago.

According to the Minister, Australia’s history of widespread use of asbestos in the past in many industries such as the building industry has left a legacy of asbestos-containing material on our environment which is potentially deadly.

An article on SafetyCulture.com.au explains more about the legislation and the Minister’s comments:

shorten_bill_080033_020_official_blue-150x150“It’s been almost a decade since asbestos was banned in this country and still, today, the dangers of this silent killer remain. Asbestos is the worst industrial menace that will go on killing for decades,” Mr Shorten said.

“The sad truth is that asbestos-related deaths are not expected to peak until 2020, and that tragically, we are expecting another 30-40,000 people to be diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases in the next 20 years. There are children not yet born who will die of asbestos related diseases. We owe it to future generations to come to grips with the blight of asbestos.”

The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency Bill 2013 will establish the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency and will work with jurisdictions for a nationally consistent approach on asbestos eradication, handling and awareness, including environmental and public health issues.

http://www.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/03/national-asbestos-agency-legislation-launched/

Sadly Australia suffers from the world’s highest number of Mesothelioma infections, a deadly asbestos induced disease developed over a period of time due to asbestos exposure. That is why action is needed to ensure more Australians are not infected with this lethal sickness in the future.

The Minister went on highlighting some rather shocking and sad situations regarding asbestos in Oz:

“We have been reminded this week of the risks of asbestos to the community, with disturbing vision circulated of a truck illegally dumping asbestos material outside a preschool in Sydney. I am disgusted at the reckless, deliberate and callous behaviour displayed by the truck driver.”

“The Agency we are setting up will have amongst its first tasks the implementation of a plan to tackle illegal dumping and to encourage safe disposal across Australia.”

“The agency will work in tandem with all levels of government, unions, industry and support groups to implement a plan of action to eliminate asbestos exposure. This is the first time that we will have a coordinated approach to eradicating, and handling asbestos beyond our workplaces.”

http://www.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/03/national-asbestos-agency-legislation-launched/

The post goes on to explain the review advocates that fast action is needed to prevent further asbestos related infections due to the deadly asbestos fibres being released into the air. The new plan will have to incorporate issues such as the identification of asbestos containing materials in buildings, asbestos removal, handling and storage as well as increasing asbestos education and awareness.

The Australian Government created the Office of Asbestos Safety in August 2012 to begin working with jurisdictions and stakeholders to start the development of the new national strategic plan by 1 July this year. The government aims to have the new agency up and running as of 1 July 2013.

You can visit http://deewr.gov.au/office-asbestos-safety to provide feedback on the draft plan at the Office’s website or to find out more.

 

White Card Update: Asbestos Clean-up Breach

Asbestos Clean Up Breach reinforces need for White Card trainingImage Source: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/asbestos-clean-up-breach-fears-at-old-mitsubishi-site/story-e6frea83-1226370401166

The suspected safety breach at the old Mitsubishi site involving asbestos removal has sparked outrage among workers at the site, who fear for their health due to exposure to the harmful substance.  Construction work has commenced at the site, beginning with the removal of old asbestos. Workers believe that safety procedures have been ignored by neglecting PPE requirements. Some workers attempted to highlight the seriousness of their concern by quitting work on the site.

A report by Adelaidenow.com.au had this to report on the issue:

WORKERS on the state’s biggest asbestos-removal site at the former Mitsubishi car plant say procedural breaches are risking safety.

Workers who contacted The Advertiser anonymously say they do not believe correct removal procedures had been adhered to in the first four months of the project, to clean up 93,000sq m of asbestos sheeting on the former factory site.

SafeWork SA officers, regularly on site, said its inspectors had issued statutory notices to address non-compliant work practices.

The breaches involve a failure to comply with the personal protective equipment requirements of workers in the asbestos-removal zone. But the workers, some of whom have quit, believe the issues and dangers at the site extend beyond people not being appropriately equipped with protective gear.

They have questioned how the clean-up project, conducted by DE-Construct for developers Baulderstone, handles the asbestos sheeting once it is removed from the factory structure.

One worker said the sheets were “dumped” into trucks lined with plastic, causing asbestos particles and dust to become airborne.

And workers are also concerned about thick dust in the factory that they fear contains asbestos.

A Baulderstone spokesman said the health and safety of everybody involved with its projects was the company’s first priority.

“We take our environmental obligations very seriously and the protection of all aspects of the environment is a key concern,” the spokesman said.

Asbestos removal is being carried out under the EPA guidelines together with approvals from SafeWork SA.

“The subcontractor engaged on the project is working in accordance with the asbestos-removal plan.

“The Baulderstone project team will continue to work with SafeWork SA to ensure all preventative measures are adhered to for the life of this project.”

SafeWork SA said the Tonsley Park redevelopment, an SA government project being managed by the Urban Renewal Authority, has been declared a major project.

“The redevelopment involves significant construction work including the removal of asbestos,” a SafeWork SA spokeswoman said.

“SafeWork SA has assigned specialist inspectors from the Mineral Fibres Unit and the Construction and High Risk Plant Team to this project.”

Source: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/asbestos-clean-up-breach-fears-at-old-mitsubishi-site/story-e6frea83-1226370401166

Contractors tasked with asbestos removal have a responsibility to themselves and to other workers to ensure they perform their duties in a manner that will not endanger anyone’s health and safety. They should ensure that asbestos-related work areas are separated from other work areas and that signs are used to warn workers of areas that are undergoing asbestos removal.These should be kept clear of unnecessary workers. Barricades can be used to close off these areas from foot traffic.

A competent person should carry out air monitoring and where there is uncertainty about level of exposure the asbestos waste should be contained and labelled according to regulation, not like the Mitsubishi site where asbestos was thrown onto a truck, releasing potentially dangerous particles into the air, to be inhaled by workers in the vicinity.

PPE is vital in the removal of asbestos and these PPE should be sealed, decontaminated, labelled and disposed of according to Australian safety standards.  If that is not possible, PPE should be decontaminated and kept in a sealed, secure container until it is necessary to re-use for the same asbestos removal purpose.

While PPE is not effective on its own, it will need to be used in conjunction with other control measures. Selection of PPE will be determined by a risk assessment. It may occur that hazardous chemicals will need to be used in the removal of the asbestos and in this instance a further risk assessment will be necessary. In this case Safety data sheets (SDS) must be referred to for information on the appropriate PPE to use and the appropriate precautions to take when working with the hazardous chemical.  When considering which PPE to use one of the factors that need to be considered will be ease of decontamination and the extent of protection they provide.  Other basic safety precautions and a comprehensive risk assessment should also be adhered to as outlined in the CPCCOHS1001A – Work safely in the construction industry White Card course.

Workers at the Mitsubishi site acted wisely in alerting authorities and the public to what they perceived as unsafe practices on their work site. Safety should always be the main priority of workers and employers. It’s not worth endangering your life in the name of productivity. Let’s hope this case will serve as a warning to other contractors and employers that safety is their main responsibility and even more so where dangerous materials are involved.

Posted by Steven Asnicar.

White Card Online News Update : No Compensation For Deceased Asbestos Victims Families in NSW

The New South Wales Government has decided that it will not be proceeding with recommendations to compensate the relatives of deceased asbestos victims as this would constitute a material breach of the 2006 agreement between the government, unions, victims and James Hardie. The recommendation was aimed at achieving fair compensation for family members whose relatives had died prematurely due to asbestos related illnesses before receiving the full compensation awarded them.

According to WorkplaceOHS.com.au:

Fairer compo for asbestos victims’ relatives won’t proceed

A recommendation to remove restrictions on the compensation available to the relatives of deceased asbestos victims has today been knocked back by the NSW Government.

The NSW Attorney General, Greg Smith MP said that the government had reluctantly decided it would not be appropriate to implement the Law Reform Commission’s recommendations in its report on compensation to relatives.

This decision followed legal and actuarial advice which indicated that to do so would have constituted a material breach of the Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund (AICF) Funding Agreement.

That Agreement was entered in 2006 into following negotiations between the NSW Government, unions, victims’ representatives and James Hardie. It includes a provision under which the NSW Government promised it would not legislate to increase or decrease damages for dust diseases.

Key mechanism

The AICF Funding Agreement is the key mechanism by which Australian asbestos victims continue to have access to around $1.5b in compensation funding from James Hardie. The Agreement will run for at least another thirty years.

‘The Government appreciates and regrets that this response will disappoint some asbestos victims and their families,’ Mr Smith said.

 ‘However, we hope that they will understand why the Government needs to consider the importance long-term of providing certainty of continued compensation to all asbestos victims, both current and future generations.’

 The Law Reform Commission’s report made recommendations for abolishing a legal principle so as to achieve greater fairness for the families of deceased dust diseases victims who may be disadvantaged by the existing law when the victims die before completing their actions for damages

Source: http://www.workplaceohs.com.au/NewsDetail.asp?ID=30278

The decision was met with criticism from unions, Greens and the families affected. Unions NSW pointed out that WA, Victoria and South Australia had adopted similar recommendations. Greens MP and spokesman David Shoebridge accused the government of not doing enough to ensure fairness for the families of asbestos victims, considering that 3 other states had adopted the recommendations. While opposition leader John Robertson said he believes that government has reached a new low in this decision.

In related news The High Court of Australia upheld a decision that found 7 directors of James Hardie guilty of making misleading statements about its asbestos compensation fund, reiterating that this case is not about numbers or profits but about people’s lives. The court maintained that directors need to be held accountable for their actions and their statements to the public.

SafetyCulture.com.au had this to say:

In 2009 the Supreme Court of New South Wales found former James Hardie non-directors had breached the Corporations Act when making the statements in 2001.

 In 2010, the non-executive directors successfully appealed against this decision. But the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) appealed against the decision in the High Court the following year, and was successful.

 “The case brought into sharp focus the fundamental responsibilities of both executive officers and non-executive directors who are ultimately responsible for significant public company decisions, and the release of information concerning those decisions, to the share market, employees, creditors and the public,” said ASIC Chairman Greg Medcraft.

 AMWU National Secretary Paul Bastian also welcomed the decision but questioned whether the law was tough enough on directors and executives generally.

 “The Corporations Law needs real teeth to stop fraudulent conveyancing of finances and to be able to pierce the veil of multiple company holdings,” Bastian said in a media statement.

 “It also needs to hold corporate directors to account for their moral behaviours and to be able to impose lasting and meaningful penalties on them such as having to attend death-bed hearings of victims and their families or imposing heavy community duty fines.

Source: http://www.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php

Posted by Steven Asnicar.