Asbestos was widely used in the construction industry in Australia due to its fire-resistant and insulation properties. However, it has since been discovered that exposure to asbestos fibres can cause serious health problems, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. As a result, on 31 December 2003, asbestos products were banned in Australia. It became a mandatory requirement to conduct an asbestos audit (also known as an asbestos assessment or survey) on all commercial properties built before 2004.
What is an Asbestos Audit?
An asbestos audit, also known as an asbestos survey, is an inspection to determine the presence of ACMs in a building or site. The audit assesses the location, type, and condition of any ACMs and their potential risks. The audit should be carried out by a specialist asbestos survey company, employing experienced Licensed Asbestos Assessors (LAA) to complete the inspection.
There are two types of asbestos surveys: a division 5 asbestos audit (management survey) and a division 6 asbestos audit (refurbishment/demolition survey). A division 5 asbestos audit identifies ACMs in a building or site to manage potential exposure risks. A division 6 asbestos audit is necessary when planned work may disturb ACMs, such as refurbishment, renovation, or demolition.
When Do I Need to Get an Asbestos Audit?
Under the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017 (WHS 2017), the person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must manage the risk of exposure to asbestos. It is a mandatory requirement that a copy of the Asbestos Register and Asbestos Management Plan be kept onsite and always made available to workers.
Severe penalties are now in effect for PUBUs and body corporates not complying with this health and safety duty. In Victoria, the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulation 2017 also requires a PCBU to manage the risk of exposure to asbestos by engaging an LAA to identify the presence of ACMs, conducting an asbestos audit, and preparing an Asbestos Register and an Asbestos Management Plan. In addition, a division 6 asbestos audit is required before any planned works, such as
refurbishment, renovation, or demolition, take place.
In addition to asbestos audits, Global Asbestos Audits offer other asbestos services such as asbestos testing, clearance inspections, and airborne asbestos testing. Asbestos testing involves taking samples to determine if materials contain asbestos. A clearance inspection assesses the quality of asbestos removal work to determine if an area is safe for re-occupation. Airborne asbestos testing measures asbestos fibre levels in the air to determine if people are being exposed.
How to choose an asbestos auditing company
It’s crucial to engage a licenced professional to conduct the Asbestos Audit; however, unless somebody can apply this service’s product (the asbestos register and management plan) effectively in real-world situations, the audit is a waste of time. When choosing a company, consider factors such as their experience, qualifications, and reputation, but don’t forget to review a copy of their sample report. Reports that aren’t easy to use don’t get used; this is where things go wrong.
It’s important to remember that everyone needs to be able to follow the asbestos register, including people who aren’t familiar with your premises, such as trade people. Therefore, ensuring your asbestos reports include as many detailed photographs as possible to help identify ACMs in the work area is essential.
Also, ensure the company you pick will assist you in achieving 100 per cent compliance in all your asbestos-related duties. Look for reports that clearly outline management and legislative recommendations. This is important for the safety of the workplace and financial safety or even the potential freedom of the PCBU. Australia now has some of the heaviest workplace-related penalties in the world, which is why choosing the right auditing company has never been so important.