Understanding Strata

Understanding Strata

Asbestos

The new asbestos regime – how do you comply?

From 1 January 2012 there were new requirements for asbestos that lift the depth and breadth of inspection, signage, planning and documentation. All states have pre-existing asbestos requirements: therefore in most states there is an expectation of immediate compliance. While Victoria and Western Australia have not immediately adopted the new Workplce Health and Safety laws this national code will be the expected national standard to which risk asbestos is handled. Queensland is the only state with a formal grace period until 30th June 2013.

Which strata buildings must comply?

All strata buildings that contain a common property workplace built before 1st January 2004 must comply. Why this date? It may surprise you to know that while asbestos in the form of Crocidolite was phased out from 1967 asbestos in the forms including Amosite were used until late 2003 and not fully banned from use until 31 December 2003.

What are the asbestos survey requirements?

There is a requirement to survey the building area and identify all loose and friable asbestos as well as stable kinds found in building materials called Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM). ACM is found in all kinds of building materials.

What are the best steps to compliance?

Step 1. Get a survey done
Go through your portfolio and ascertain which buildings were completed before 1st January 2004 (be aware of the buildings completed before 2004 and then strata titled at a later date) once you have the list gain permission to order an asbestos survey as necessary. 

Step 2. Act on survey results
All surveys whether asbestos or ACM are found, must be kept onsite and available. 

If asbestos or ACM are found you need to ensure a new compliant onsite asbestos register and Asbestos Management Plan (AMP) is provided and made available to those who might be at risk. A quality AMP will tell you all you need to know.

Important information for strata and community scheme managers

The most as risk people you deal with are your contractors. So ensure your engagement system accounts for this. Here are a few tips:

  1. Inform the contractor that there is an asbestos register onsite that they must consult before conducting any work. This can be best done by including this in the engagement documentation.
  2. Provide the asbestos register and AMP onsite – most people are choosing a document box with a 003 key lock.

How often must an AMP audit be updated?

If asbestos is found then the building needs to be regularly audited if the decision is to leave the ACM onsite in a stable encapsulated state rather than to remove it.

Asbestos is a serious health risk that must be managed. Immediate action to comply with the legislative changes is prudent. All pre-2004 buildings with common property workplaces need to comply. Compliance is simple with good quality properly experienced and trained advisors.

Strata Community Australia would like to thank James Freestun, Managing Director of Solutions In Engineering for this article. His company has been conducting asbestos surveys for over 15 years and is the largest provider of compliance reports in Australasia. 

An asbestos case study

An apartment owner in a block of 12 apartments built in the 1970s phoned the strata manager indicating that both her door and that of her neighbour were sticking. She asked the strata manager to organise a tradesman to take a look at the problem.

The tradesman took the two doors off their hinges and proceeded to shave the doors (without a catcher). The doors were tagged indicating that they were made of asbestos material however the tradesman didn't see this tagging. As well as shaving the doors in the apartment, he took them down to the garage and worked on them.

The owner was previously in the building industry, and became concerned about the dust in her apartment, the common area, and the garage. The owner contacted the strata manager with her concerns.

Resolution

The strata manager arranged for the dust particles to be tested and it was confirmed that they were asbestos particles. Immediate measures were taken to contain it. Black plastic was placed over the carpet and soft furnishings in the owner's apartment, as well as in the common areas. The garage was blocked off. A qualified asbestos consultant was contracted to safely clean up the areas where asbestos particles were identified.

The presence of asbestos in buildings isn't insurable, so the owner's corporation was responsible for costs incurred in cleaning up and replacing carpet, furnishings in the contaminated apartment, carpet in the common areas, and cleaning up the garage. Several special levies had to be raised to cover the costs.