At the height of its popularity in the construction industry, asbestos was used in the manufacturing and construction of more than 3,000 different products. These products could be found in fibro, drains, roofs, brakes, insulation and flue pipes. Following the discovery of the link between asbestos exposure and severe lung damage, asbestos products were gradually removed from production and construction during the 1980s in Australia.
Asbestos became such a popular material in the construction industry because it was identified as an effective insulator, and it can be used in paper, paper, cement, plastic and a wide range of other construction materials. Asbestos fibres are also known to be very soft, flexible, and heat-resistant -which made them an ideal material for the construction industry stop it was, however, these qualities that also made asbestos exposure highly toxic for those who came into contact with it.
By 2003, a total ban on asbestos finally came into effect in Australia. It is now entirely illegal to make it, use it, or have it imported from another country. However, due to the extent of its use years ago, asbestos can still be widely found.
Workers must not touch, handle or remove asbestos unless they have been specifically trained and hold the required license to perform the tasks appropriate. GBAR Group in Brisbane strongly advise against anyone in the community handling, removing, or touching asbestos related products without the presence of a trained asbestos technician.
There are a number of agencies and government roles regulating asbestos in Australia. The Department of Health, Department of Environment Regulation and WorkSafe are all agencies that have a hefty role in regulating asbestos.
The Department of Health use the Health (Asbestos) Regulations 1992 to impose and regulate asbestos, including:
- Prohibition and banning of the sale, supply, or use of asbestos cement materials
- Prohibition of moving a house that was built or partly built with asbestos cement materials
- Ensure reasonable measures are being used for the maintenance, repair, storage, removal and disposal of asbestos containing materials
- Duty to notify other people when asbestos is being removed and disposed of
The Department of Environmental Regulation advises on the safe transportation and disposal of asbestos containing products, as well as regulates it. This is mostly in the public sector and the residential sector.
WorkSafe regulates asbestos by:
- Auditing all asbestos related incidents and work in the workplace
- Provides licensing to asbestos removalists
- Conducts regular audits of those with a license to remove asbestos
There are also a number of other resources for the public to contact when in need of advice or guidance on asbestos regulation. Extensive and widespread use of asbestos over the years has resulted in a large presence of the materials all over the country. The public may easily come into contact with asbestos materials at home, in public spaces or in the workplaces. Below are a number of asbestos regulators currently operating in Australia.
- Environmental Health Hazards Unit
- Department of Mining and Petroleum
- Local Government
- Department of Education
- Housing Authority
- Department of Finance – Building Management and Works
Under these heavy regulations, Australia has stopped all importation, use and production of asbestos products. These agencies all work together to make sure all environments are safe; whether it be a home, school, workplace or community space.