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Asbestos Health and Safety Regulation's Unintended Consequences

Posted by Ian Good on 14 November 2017

Following a recent Webinar that HAZCON delivered, there were some discussions regarding the changes in the OHS Regulations 2017, one of the participants raised a question regarding asbestos removal; specifically, the removal of asbestos contaminated soil.

Based on the Dangerous Goods Order G26, any asbestos in soil, be it friable or non-friable, could only be removed by a Class A Asbestos Licensed Removalist. However, as the intent of G26 has now been incorporated into the Health and Safety Regulations, that clarity has been lost. The revised Health and Safety Regulations state that a Class B Asbestos Licensed Removalist may remove any quantity of non-friable asbestos, whether it is fixed and installed, or not. The question was whether soil that surrounded non-friable asbestos fell into the 'friable' category. After discussions with WorkSafe Victoria, their position was that soil contaminated with non-friable asbestos debris can be removed by a Class B, Asbestos Licensed Removalist.

The only wrinkle is the new regulation 264 (c), which allows a Class A Asbestos Licensed Removalist to engage an independent contractor to operate an excavator. This regulation does not allow Class B removalists similar flexibility, nor does it allow a Class A Asbestos Licensed Removalist to engage the independent contractor if the asbestos in the soil is non-friable, i.e. Class B asbestos removal work.

For example, in 2015 HAZCON was involved in the removal of 4000m3 of asbestos contaminated soil. A Class A Asbestos Licensed Removalist was engaged and all the workers including the excavator operator were trained employees of the removalist. This removal work would now be able to be conducted by a Class B or Class A Asbestos Licensed Removalist.  However, the excavator operator would still have to be a trained employee of either removalist as the work is not classified as Class A removal work.

Industry will be looking for clarity regarding such issues in the relevant Compliance Code which WorkSafe Victoria is currently in the process of updating.

Author: Ian Good
Tags: Ian Good

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