Safe Work Australia Seeking Consultation on Asbestos Risks

Safe Work Australia is seeking to understand the nature and extent of issues surrounding the term “competent person” for asbestos-related tasks in the WHS regulations.



An estimated 4,000 Australians die annually from asbestos-related diseases according to the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, which is nearly four times the annual road toll. Contributing to this is the estimated 6,000 tonnes of asbestos that are illegally disposed of in Australia every year. These actions put communities at risk and cost around $11.2 million yearly to remediate.

A survey of 1,506 home improvers commissioned by the Asbestos Safety Eradication Agency in 2021 revealed that over a third of those who have encountered asbestos during a DIY project or renovation admitted to illegal and dangerous disposal.

The 2018 review of the model WHS laws, published in February 2019, noted that some stakeholders found the definition of a “competent person” for asbestos-related tasks too broad, making it unclear as to who should or must perform certain asbestos-related tasks and exactly what type of training, qualification or experience a competent person should hold.

Chapter 8 of the model WHS Regulations details the requirements for dealing with asbestos and asbestos-containing materials in the workplace and stipulates who must perform certain asbestos-related tasks. A summary of which asbestos-related tasks require a competent person or licensed asbestos assessor is provided in the table within the supporting document Asbestos Competent Persons – Information Paper.

Safe Work Australia is calling for submissions from anyone with an interest in this topic. This includes persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), WHS regulators, asbestos removalists and construction/demolition businesses, workers involved with asbestos remediation, health and safety representatives and practitioners and persons with management or control of workplaces where asbestos has been identified.

You can provide an online submission, take the survey here.

Image courtesy of Tneil Abt, Unsplash.

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