Managing asbestos for employers who own their premises
If you identify asbestos in your workplace:
- Check its condition. For example, if the asbestos is in good condition and left undisturbed, it is usually safer to leave it fixed or installed and review its condition over time
- If the asbestos has deteriorated, for example asbestos-contaminated dust is present or it is likely that airborne asbestos fibres may be released into the air, then you must control the risk, for example by removing the asbestos material.
Follow the steps below to manage asbestos in your workplace.
Create an Asbestos Register
Whenever asbestos is identified in a workplace, you have a duty to create an asbestos register to record the presence of the asbestos and keep it updated if there is a change to the condition of asbestos, including if it is removed, enclosed or sealed. The register must also be reviewed and if necessary revised every five years to keep it current.
Provide access to the asbestos register
The asbestos register must be readily accessible to your employees. Employers also have a duty to provide a copy of the asbestos register to:
- health and safety representatives for any affected designated work group
- asbestos licence holders engaged to do asbestos removal work
- anyone who takes over management or control of the workplace
- employers who carry out asbestos-related activities and request a copy.
Label the asbestos
Once asbestos has been identified its presence and location must be clearly indicated. Adhering a label containing the word 'asbestos' directly on asbestos material is the most effective method of indicating asbestos and should be considered first.
Where this direct labelling is not possible, labels should be situated as close as possible to the asbestos material.
Where a label cannot be placed directly on or adjacent to identified asbestos, a label nearby or at entrance points to buildings or rooms should be considered.
Ensure that labelling is consistent with asbestos locations on your asbestos register.
Regardless of which method you use, all employees, including contractors, need to be aware of the system of labelling. Where direct labelling is not used, particular attention needs to be given to identifying the presence and location of asbestos to contractors such as plumbers, electricians and carpenters before they commence work.
Inform contractors who enter the workplace
Before they start, any contractors who are engaged to perform work that involves the risk of exposure to asbestos must be given a copy of the asbestos register. The register must include the location of the asbestos.
A permit-to-work system should be implemented to ensure contractors are aware of asbestos before starting work.
Control the risk
Victorian law specifies three stages in the hierarchy of control that must be used to control risks from asbestos.
1. Eliminate the risk so far as reasonably practicable by removing the asbestos
2. If a risk remains, reduce the risk so far as reasonably practicable by enclosing the asbestos
3. If a risk remains, further reduce the risk so far as reasonably practicable by sealing the asbestos.
More information can be found about effective ways to control risk in A step by step guide to managing asbestos in workplaces and the Managing asbestos in workplaces compliance code.
Train and educate employees
If you have used control measures to manage the risks associated with asbestos, you must provide your employees with sufficient information, instruction and training to enable them to perform their work in a manner that is safe and without risk to health.
The information and training should include:
- the hazards associated with asbestos in the workplace
- the control measures used
- the reasons for the control measures
- details of medical examinations (if necessary)
- the right of employees to have access to the asbestos register.
Know your duties for working with asbestos
As an employer, you have duties associated with certain asbestos-related activities (aside from removal work) carried out in your workplace. These activities include:
- hand drilling and cutting asbestos containing material
- enclosing or sealing asbestos
- transporting asbestos for disposal
- maintenance and dust extraction equipment contaminated with asbestos
- laundering clothing contaminated with asbestos
- research involving asbestos
- sampling and analysing suspect asbestos
- working on a site licensed by EPA Victoria to accept asbestos waste.
Consult with your employees
Victoria's health and safety laws require employers to, so far as is reasonably practicable, consult with employees and health and safety representatives (if any) on health or safety matters that directly affect, or are likely to directly affect them. Consultation must include sharing information, giving employees the opportunity to express their views, and taking those views into account.