A Guide to the Asbestos Regulations 1998
Issued by the Department of Labour December 1998
Legislation and Labour Department Guidelines
Work with asbestos is regulated under the Health and Safety in Employment regulations. These regulations place duties on those working with asbestos.
The Labour department publication Guidelines for the Management and Removal of Asbestos expands on the requirements set out in the regulations and provides guidance for employers and other on the procedures to follow when working with asbestos and products that contain asbestos. Copies of the guidelines are available from Labour Department offices.
Minimising the Risk Posed by Asbestos
Where contact with asbestos products cannot be avoided, then all practicable steps must be taken to minimise exposure to asbestos fibres. This may be achieved by:
- Ensuring that effective steps are taken to stop or limit the release of asbestos fibres into the air
- Ensuring that sound work practices are carried out to avoid the spread of asbestos contamination on clothing and footwear (wearing disposable outer clothing is recommended).
- Using dust extraction equipment where the generation of fibres from a process cannot be avoided.
- Where all other steps have been taken and the possibility of excessive exposure remains, to minimise the inhalation of asbestos fibres by using respiratory protection.
Identification and Management of Asbestos in Buildings
Property Owners should identify asbestos products in there properties and record the location and condition of the material. A management plan should be put in place that includes informing tenants on the presence of asbestos and the steps being taken to minimise the risk to occupants. Contractors working on the building should also be informed of the presence of Asbestos.
Employers must take all practicable steps to provide a safe working environment for employees. To achieve this, employers should liaise with the property owners on the existence and condition of asbestos in the building. The management plan that is put in place need not involve the removal of asbestos product from the building. If the produce is stable, only ongoing surveillance may be required. Other wise encapsulation or enclosure may be an option. The options for controlling the risks presented by asbestos in buildings and structures are discussed in the Guidelines for the Management and Removal.
Carrying out work involving asbestos
The Health and Safety in Employment (Asbestos) Regulations specify particular tasks as “restricted work” that must be notified to the Labour Department before work begins. These tasks must be carried out buy a person holding a certificate of competence for this work, or by someone under direct supervision of a person holding a certificate. The regulations also specify controls that apply to anyone working with asbestos.
The regulations define restricted work as
- Work involving asbestos, if the asbestos concerned is friable and used in thermal or acoustic insulation, or fire protection, in buildings, ships, structures, or vehicles.
- Work involving asbestos, if the asbestos concerned is friable and used in lagging around boilers, ducts, furnaces or pipes.
- The demolition or maintenance of anything, including a building or part of a building containing friable asbestos.
- The encapsulation of materials containing friable asbestos
- The use of power tools, with any kind of cutting blade or abrasive device on asbestos cement or other bonded product containing asbestos, except when used with dust control equipment.
- Dry sanding of vinyl asbestos floor coverings.
Under the provisions of the Health and Safety in Employment ACT, employers are required to monitor the health of employees. Because of the particular hazards of work with asbestos, it is essential to monitor employees who carry out restricted work with asbestos. This monitoring may include Chest X rays and lung function tests. The Labour Departmental medical officer may also require any other person undertaking work with asbestos to have a medical examination. Employees who may have been exposed to asbestos are invited to enter there names and appropriate exposure details in the Asbestos Exposure Register Administered by the Labour Department.
Disposal of Asbestos Waste
All asbestos waste must be placed in closed containers clearly parked with letters at least 25mm high: Asbestos Hazard – Wear respirator and protective clothing while handling the contents.
Waste must be disposed of at a place approved by a territorial authority (Local Council or regional council)and immediately covered by not less than 1 metre of earth. Every employer must take practicable steps to ensure that no previously used product that contains asbestos is reused or offered for sale.
Further information and Advice
For more information on the legal requirements, contact your local Department of Labour office.