26 September 2023

WorkSafe issues advice on asbestos in soil

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WorkSafe Western Australia has issued an information sheet on the dangers of asbestos in contaminated soils.

According to WorkSafe, the sheet’s information provides advice to people in control of a workplace as well as those involved in inspecting, removing, managing or disposing of asbestos-contaminated soils in workplaces.

It said its Information Sheet deals with soils at a workplace, which are contaminated with Asbestos Containing Material but it doesn’t cover naturally occurring asbestos.

“Asbestos can be found in soil usually as a result of inadequate asbestos removal work or demolition; degradation of a building or structure on site; legacy or recent illegal dumping; waste burial; and past use of contaminated fill/top soil,” WorkSafe said.

“Asbestos in soils only poses a risk to the health of workers if the fibres become airborne and are then inhaled.” it said.

“The likelihood of exposure depends on the nature, quantity and distribution condition, that is, whether it is non-friable (bonded) or friable (crumbles under hand pressure, non-bonded)”.

WorkSafe said that residential sites with contamination can be reported to a Local Government Authorised Officer (Environmental Health Officer) who has powers to regulate asbestos contamination under the Health (Asbestos) Regulations 1992.

“For extensive or legacy asbestos contamination, the site should be reported under section 11 of the Contaminated Sites Act 2003,” it said.

It said that removal of recent or minor, small scale soil contamination at workplaces can be removed using safe systems of work under the Work Health and Safety (General) Regulations 2022.

“Removal of non-friable asbestos in soil contamination of 10 square metres or more (total asbestos surface area) may be conducted by a Class A or Class B asbestos licence holder,” it said.

“However, if the asbestos contamination is friable or mixed friable/non-friable, a Class A asbestos licence holder must be engaged.

“An independent consultant may also be required to assess and manage the site to address the client’s compliance with environmental legislation. Asbestos contaminated soils”

WorkSafe said that for more information on reporting and assessment of contaminated sites, the Guidelines for the Assessment, Remediation and Management of Asbestos-Contaminated Sites in Western Australia would assist.

More information is available from the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety in a website containing Frequently Asked Questions.

The website can be accessed at this PS News link.

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