Duties to identify and manage Asbestos

In addition to the general duties to manage workplace health and safety risk under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, the Health and Safety in Employment (Asbestos) Regulations 2016 impose specific duties in relation to the management of asbestos in the workplace.

The “Asbestos Regulations” impose duties upon PCBUs that manage or control workplaces, where a risk of exposure to asbestos fibres is known or reasonably ought to be known to exist, to identify, assess, and manage the risk of exposure to asbestos which may arise in the workplace.

The Regulations impose duties to manage the risk by:

  1. Identifying asbestos and ACMs
  2. Assessing risks from Asbestos and ACMs, and identify ways to control them
  3. Developing an Asbestos Management Plan
  4. Developing processes for accidents, incidents and emergencies
  5. Reviewing the effectiveness of asbestos management plans

For a workplace PCBU, identifying asbestos or ACM in the workplace is the first step in managing the asbestos exposure risk.

Engaging a competent surveyor, with knowledge and experience in identifying where asbestos is or may be present, is a practicable step for a PCBU to fulfil their legal duty to ensure that asbestos is identified under the Asbestos Regulations.

Overlapping duties apply to consult, co-operate with, and co-ordinate activities in workplaces where there is more than one PCBU, for example, an owner, a property manager, an occupier, or multiple occupiers.

The Regulations impose additional duties in relation to the demolition and refurbishment of structures and plant which were constructed or installed before January 1 2000, or where asbestos is present or likely to be present. This duty excludes minor or routine maintenance or other minor work.

The regulation imposes a duty upon a PCBU who intends to carry out refurbishment or demolition work in such circumstances, not to carry out the work until the structure or plant has been inspected by a competent person to determine whether asbestos or ACM are present.