Department of Finance

Management of asbestos

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Government buildings

The Asbestos Steering Committee (ASC), an advisory committee established by the former Department of Housing and Works in August 2006, prepared a report titled Managing Asbestos in Western Australian Government Buildings. The report outlines the ASC’s findings and recommendations according to its terms of reference. In its report the ASC:

  • supports the current asbestos management framework within the WA public sector in which responsibility and accountability for compliance with relevant legislation and policy rest with individual Government agencies, supported by occupational safety and health advice from the Department of Commerce (WorkSafe), and building asset management advice and works procurement from the Department of Finance. Having reviewed relevant acts, regulations, codes of practice and policy frameworks, the ASC concludes agency responsibility and accountability cannot be delegated to third parties or central agencies/committees
  • does not support a whole-of-government systematic program to remove asbestos containing materials (ACMs) from Government buildings. The ASC notes that such a program is likely to increase short term risks to health, encounter industry capacity constraints and place an untenable cost impost on Government. The ASC supports best practice Australian and international evidence that suggests the removal of asbestos containing materials should be undertaken when health risks are present or the opportunity to remediate presents, such as during building renovation or demolition. In other circumstances the management of ACMs in situ is recommended;
  • stated that some Government agencies have been slow to recognise and progress their obligations for asbestos management in the workplace despite two directives instructing agencies to develop asbestos registers and asbestos management plans
  • prepared a range of documents to assist Government agencies to comply with their asbestos management obligations, including:

Inspection and assessment

BMW facilitates the creation of ACM registers for Government agencies to enable compliance obligations to be met under the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 (WA). ACM inspections involve a visual assessment of buildings plus the application of an inspector’s building material knowledge to identify potential ACM risk. BMW administers a panel of “competent” inspectors to perform asbestos risk inspections in accordance with the Regulations. Inspectors are required to collect physical data of all presumed or confirmed ACM’s on site, quantified by item or estimated measurement, and note the current condition and likelihood of disturbance.

The frequency of inspections is determined by the condition of ACM, as determined by an inspector. WorkSafe will accept an assessment by a competent person at intervals of up to three years for inspection of material that is of low risk, provided that efficient systems are in place to report damage, disturbance or work involving the asbestos that occurs prior to the next planned maintenance.

Contractors' responsibilities for asbestos-containing materials

This is a reminder to contractors of their obligations when working on all government building sites, on behalf of the Department of Finance, Building Management and Works (BMW).

Contractors are reminded of their responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1984 and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 1996, including compliance with the following codes of practice, when engaged by BMW to undertake asbestos-related work on Government buildings. These codes of practice are:

  1. Before starting work at a site, the contractor (and contractor's personnel or subcontractors) must:
    1. examine the ACM Register for the site and acknowledge that it has been read and understood by completing the required information in the Building Maintenance Logbook or other attendance register maintained at the site. Note: The asbestos register is only a guide and does not preclude the need to carryout a physical check of the work area.
    2. inspect the work area for the presence of any ACM before proceeding with the works.
    3. determine whether ACM is likely to be disturbed during the work and if so, notify the site representative.
    4. determine if the work requires an Unrestricted Asbestos Removal Licence or Restricted Asbestos Removal Licence. More information on WorkSafe licensing requirements. More information on WorkSafe licensing requirements.
  2. Where the contractor identifies or suspects the presence of any ACM after work has started, the contractor must immediately stop work and notify the site and BMW representative.
  3. Any ACM-related work must be undertaken at a time which removes or limits exposure to building occupants and the general public, and which is mutually agreeable with the site representative. Note: All asbestos-related work at schools must be undertaken at a time when no staff or students are at the site.
  4. The site representative is to be kept informed of progress and when work is scheduled to be completed.
  5. The site is to be decontaminated and left in a clean, tidy and presentable state to the satisfaction of the site representative.
  6. On completion of the work, the contractor must provide adequate information and documentation about the ACM remediation to enable the site representative to meet obligations to revise the ACM Register.
  7. Where required, a clearance certificate must be issued by a competent person, who is independent from the person responsible for the ACM removal work.

See additional information on safe work practices for dealing with asbestos in the Asbestos Booklet.

Alternatively, please contact the Department through your BMW contract manager.

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