Asbestos regulations were most recently updated in 2018, following asbestos exposure having been identified more than once in the past 10-years’ as a leading cause of workplace-related disease causing death. In 2010, it was conservatively estimated that 170 of the estimated 700 – 900 fatalities from workplace disease in 2010 came from asbestos exposure, and it was also identified by WorkSafe NZ in 2016 as the leading cause of workplace-related disease causing death.
In line with the need to reduce workplace-related health risks, new asbestos regulations came fully into effect on April 4th, 2018, following a two-year grace period from the code initially coming into effect in November 2016. Click here to read the full Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016.
The Asbestos Regulations generally prohibit working with asbestos, however, there are exceptions to this. The Asbestos Regulations regulate the type of work people can do with asbestos, asbestos-containing material (ACM), and asbestos-contaminated dust or debris (ACD).
Any companies intending to specialise in asbestos removal related activities will need to be licensed. There are two classes of asbestos removal licence, and a separate licence to act as an asbestos assessor. The licencing requirements are explained here.
For all asbestos workers, training is an important part of the new system. A copy of WorkSafe’s Training Flowchart is below, which outlines the type of training workers require before becoming licensed. You can download a copy by clicking the image.
What about your role as a PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking)?
Your duties as a PCBU mean that you must ensure that your working environment is free of airborne asbestos fibres.
- Ensure you have identified any asbestos or ACM giving rise to any risk at your workplace.
- Create an asbestos register of the workplace.
- Ensure sampling is analysed by an accredited laboratory.
- Provide an easy, accessible site plan detailing sample locations.
- Ensure that a written asbestos management plan is prepared, implemented and reviewed as required.
WorkSafe’s frequently asked questions section of their website provides more information.
It’s worth noting that WorkSafe has not yet prosecuted anyone for not having an asbestos management plan, as “a Worksafe spokesperson said its focus was on engaging and educating the sector to comply rather than on non-compliance levels” (Marta Steeman, Stuff, 2019), and WorkSafe’s general manager of better regulation and legal, Mike Hargreaves, later stating that “WorkSafe [have] a range of enforcement tools, not just prosecution to help ensure that businesses meet their asbestos obligations, including education” (Rob Stock, Stuff, 2019).
If you’re new to the industry and not aware of the regulations having an update since 2016, or you’d like a refresher about the regulations or a workplace assessment to ensure you’re meeting your requirements, contact the team at Working Wise today by phoning 04 499 0710, or completing our online contact form.