Bushfire recovery: Asbestos clean-up

Information for employers, self-employed persons, and persons who manage or control a workplace on performing asbestos clean-up work on buildings following a bushfire.

Introduction

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to persons who manage or control a workplace, employers, and self-employed persons who are proposing to perform asbestos clean-up (removal) work on a building or structure that contains or is suspected of containing asbestos following a bushfire.

Immediately following a bushfire, incident responders such as the Country Fire Authority (CFA), Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV), Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Parks Victoria and local councils may be the first to attend and provide the initial assessment of hazards onsite. High-risk hazards can include dangerous trees, gas cylinders, live electricity (including plant such as generators and residual current device (RCD) power boxes), unstable structures and asbestos. Following the initial impact assessment, recovery activities will begin which will include "make-safe" arrangements and clean-up.

Clean-up can be conducted by a number of options:

  1. State: The Victorian Government may appoint a contractor as a clean-up provider for bushfire destroyed properties.
    1. Insurer: Property owners arrange clean-up through their insurer.
      1. Self-managed: Property owners arrange clean-up of their property by engaging contractors.

        Asbestos and fire

        Asbestos-containing materials (ACM) are very common in buildings and structures built before 1990 and are commonly found in walls, splashbacks, vinyl floor coverings, roofs, eaves, fences and electrical switch boards. Most ACM in the home is 'non-friable' (bonded material). However, in a fire, non-friable asbestos has the potential to shatter and disintegrate, which can cause the material to become 'friable' (material that is no longer bonded). Friable asbestos can easily crumble to dust and this significantly increases the risk of breathing asbestos fibres, which may lead to serious diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

        When non-friable ACM has been damaged by fire

        If non-friable ACM has been damaged by fire it should either be:

        1. assumed to have become friable (which requires removal by a Class A asbestos removal licence holder), or
        2. thoroughly inspected, as part of the site risk assessment referred to below, by a competent person to determine whether it has remained non-friable

        If an inaccessible area in the fire site, where ACM is or is likely to be present, is damaged by fire or an area becomes inaccessible because of fire damage, the employer and/or person who has management or control of the site/workplace should assume that friable ACM is present. Otherwise the area, if safe to do so, needs to be accessed by a competent person to identify the presence of ACM, whether it is friable and, if required, undertake sampling for asbestos identification purposes.

        A precautionary approach is required to be taken on a bushfire site where asbestos is or is likely to be present but is inaccessible. This means if all bushfire impacted ACM is not accessible it needs to be treated as friable and hence a Class A asbestos removal licence holder must be engaged.

        Site risk assessment

        A risk assessment is required before any "make-safe" or clean-up activities can occur.

        Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) employers have a duty to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees, including independent contractors. Employers and persons who manage or control workplaces must identify hazards on a bushfire impacted site and assess the risk to the health and safety of employees and independent contractors before clean-up work takes place.

        In addition, the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations) imposes an obligation on employers and persons who manage or control workplaces to identify asbestos that is likely to be disturbed by proposed demolition or refurbishment work before the work is commenced. [Regulation 244]

        Hazard identification and risk assessment (including asbestos identification) should be documented and include information on the identification of any ACM present onsite and if present, the condition and the extent of the contamination.

        To carry out a site risk assessment, a competent person with the appropriate knowledge, skills and experience should be engaged by the person who has management or control of the workplace, for example an occupational hygienist with asbestos experience.

        The site risk assessment should be carried out in a manner to minimise any disturbance of the building materials, for example a competent person, wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), conducting a site evaluation by visually inspecting materials as they walk across the site. If the ACM can be reduced to powder by hand or if building materials are visibly contaminated with asbestos dust, then the ACM should be deemed friable and all asbestos removal work would need to be carried out by a Class A asbestos removal licence holder.

        Some sites, depending on the terrain and the extent of the burnt materials, will require further investigation using an excavator to move the building materials around in order to identify the presence, quantity and condition of ACM. This will result in disturbance of the building materials and may potentially release asbestos airborne fibres in the process. All workers involved in this type of assessment must wear the appropriate PPE and use controls such as water suppression to reduce the risk of airborne fibres being released during the disturbance of materials.

        If the competent person is uncertain of the condition and quantity of the ACM or access to performing a site risk assessment is restricted due to difficult site conditions or requires excessive disturbance of building materials, then all ACM bushfire waste from the site should be treated as friable and removal by a Class A asbestos removal licence holder is required.

        If the competent person determines that the ACM has not been significantly affected by the bushfire, for example the fire has damaged areas around the building or structure but has left the building or structure with minimal fire damage and the ACM remains in its non-friable state, then the removal work may be carried out by a Class B asbestos removal licence holder.

        In the case of a place that was a workplace before it was affected by bushfire, the asbestos register may be available which provides information of the type and condition of ACM that was already onsite. This document will be useful to the competent person performing the site risk assessment to establish the extent and condition of ACM material.

        If the competent person does not identify or suspect any ACM onsite, then there is no requirement to undertake clean-up works under asbestos controlled conditions, although caution should be taken when removing building materials. If ACM is later identified or suspected, work must cease immediately, and the worksite must be made safe until the ACM can be tested and assessed by a competent person, and where testing confirms the presence of ACM, be removed by an appropriate licenced asbestos removalist. The competent person should document in a site risk assessment that no ACM has been identified on site and update the site risk assessment if the situation changes.

        If sampling is required for asbestos identification purposes, analysis of samples must be undertaken by a laboratory accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA).

        Where sampling is required, several samples may need to be collected for analysis to ensure samples are representative of the suspected ACM on the site.

        The competent person should document the site risk assessment, clearly identifying the presence, quantity and condition (friable or non-friable) of ACM and any associated dust on building materials and debris in soil. The competent person should determine whether the removal is to be performed by a Class A or Class B asbestos removal licence holder based on their investigations and the results of any sample analysis that has been carried out.

        Class A or B asbestos removal licence holder

        Where the site risk assessment has identified friable ACM on the site, all post bushfire asbestos clean-up must be performed by a person:

        • that holds a Class A (friable) asbestos removal licence that is not restricted from performing this work under the terms and conditions of their licence, or
          • that is an employee of a person who holds a Class A asbestos removal licence holder that is not restricted from performing this work under the terms and conditions of their licence

            Where the site risk assessment has identified ONLY non-friable ACM on the site, clean-up can be performed by a person:

            • that holds a Class B (non-friable) asbestos removal licence that is not restricted from performing this work under the terms and conditions of their licence, or
              • that is an employee of a person who holds a Class B asbestos removal licence holder that is not restricted from performing this work under the terms and conditions of their licence

                A person who holds a Class B asbestos removal licence or an employee of a person who holds a Class B asbestos removal licence is not permitted to perform Class A (friable) asbestos removal work.

                Note: Non-friable ACM that is less than 10m2 in quantity and will take less than 1 hour to remove does not require an asbestos removal licence holder to remove the ACM. [Regulation 264 (a) and (b) and Regulation 265 (a) and (b)]

                To clarify any uncertainty regarding the terms and conditions of a Class A or Class B asbestos removal licence, discuss with the licence holder or contact WorkSafe Victoria.

                An employee of a person who holds a Class A or Class B asbestos removal licence must be directly engaged by a licence holder to perform the asbestos removal work and not through a third party (eg. a labour hire company cannot hire their employees out to a licensed removalist to undertake asbestos removal work).

                Site supervisor

                The asbestos removal licence holder can only appoint a person as an asbestos removal supervisor if the licence holder has nominated that person as a site supervisor and the nomination has been accepted by WorkSafe. [Regulation 266]

                For friable ACM removal work, the Class A asbestos removal licence holder must always ensure a site supervisor is on the site at all times whilst the Class A asbestos removal work is being performed. [Regulation 285]

                For non-friable ACM removal work, the Class B asbestos removal licence holder must ensure the site supervisor is readily accessible to the persons performing the asbestos removal work on the site at all times whilst the Class B asbestos removal work is being performed. [Regulation 267] Note: For non-friable ACM removal work ONLY, the site supervisor is considered to be readily accessible if they are contactable by phone and able to arrive at the removal site within 20 minutes.

                To nominate an additional site supervisor for a licence, the asbestos licence holder must complete the application form Asbestos removal licence – Nomination of additional site supervisor and submit the application to the WorkSafe Licensing Branch. Nomination is required even if the individual is already listed as a site supervisor on another licensed asbestos removalist's licence.

                For each site supervisor application, the asbestos licence holder will be required to submit:

                • proof of training, including original training, refresher training (within the last year) and supervisor training documentation, and
                  • details of professional experience relevant to the terms and conditions of the licence in the last 2 years, and
                    • medical assessment by a registered medical practitioner within the last 2 years if an existing employee, or
                      • medical assessment by a registered medical practitioner within the last 12 months for a new employee

                        Once all information has been received by WorkSafe's Licensing Branch, the nominated site supervisor may then undergo an interview with a member of WorkSafe's Occupational Hygiene Unit to determine his/her knowledge of asbestos removal in accordance with the OHS Regulations.

                        Independent contractors

                        A Class A asbestos removal licence holder may directly engage an independent contractor to operate an excavator to assist with asbestos removal work, such as moving heavy building materials and loading asbestos contaminated waste into the back of a truck. The independent contractor must be directly supervised by the Class A asbestos license holder and site supervisor at all times whilst operating the excavator onsite during the asbestos removal work. [Regulation 264 (c)]

                        An independent contractor, in these circumstances, can only be engaged to perform asbestos removal work involving the operation of an excavator (for example, the independent contractor is not permitted to remove ACM using hand held tools).

                        The Class A asbestos removal licence holder must provide the independent contractor with:

                        • appropriate site instruction and training [Regulation 269 and 270]
                          • appropriate health medical assessment for working with asbestos by a registered medical practitioner [Regulation 282 (3)]
                            • appropriate PPE and ensure that respiratory protection is correctly fitted. [Regulation 276]

                              A Class B asbestos removal licence holder is not permitted to engage an independent contractor to perform asbestos removal work involving the operation of an excavator. Any excavator operator must be directly employed by the Class B asbestos removal licence holder.

                              Training

                              Persons performing asbestos removal work

                              The asbestos removal licence holder must ensure that all persons performing the asbestos removal work for the licence holder have been informed, instructed and trained to perform that work in a manner that is safe and without risks to health. [Regulation 269]

                              Refresher training by a competent person with the appropriate skills and knowledge should be conducted every year for a Class A asbestos removalist employee and every two years for a Class B asbestos removalist employee. However, it needs to be conducted more often if work methods change, the type of equipment used changes, or the type of work changes.

                              The asbestos removal licence holder must keep all training records for persons performing the asbestos removal work on site where the work is being performed and must be readily accessible for inspection upon request under the OHS Act. [Regulation 270]

                              Independent contractors

                              Independent contractors engaged by the Class A asbestos removal licence holder for the purpose of operating an excavator must also be informed, instructed and trained. Training should be performed by a competent person with knowledge and skills relating to hazards that are likely to be relevant when operating an excavator during asbestos removal, for example:

                              • a registered training organisation on the national units of competency for asbestos removal or
                                • an occupational hygienist with training ability and the skills, knowledge and experience associated with asbestos removal

                                  Training should cover (as a minimum):

                                  • site access
                                    • PPE requirements, including performing a fit check for respiratory protection
                                      • personal decontamination procedures when leaving the site
                                        • use of excavator onsite and controls to prevent airborne asbestos fibres
                                          • decontamination of plant/equipment

                                            To acknowledge the independent contractor has understood the onsite training, the competent person could include a written or verbal assessment component which may include the contractor answering questions. The independent contractor should also show competence in performing a respirator fit check.

                                            All training records for independent contractors must be retained and must be readily accessible for inspection upon request under the OHS Act.

                                            Health medical assessments

                                            The asbestos removal licence holder must arrange for an appropriate medical examination to be conducted by a registered medical practitioner for each person engaged in asbestos removal work (including independent contractors).

                                            The licence holder must ensure the medical examinations are provided before the person or independent contractor commences asbestos removal work for the first time for the licence holder (unless the person has had an appropriate medical examination within the preceding year) and then at intervals no greater than 2 years and within 30 days after the person ceases asbestos removal work, unless the person has had an appropriate medical examination within the preceding year. [Regulation 282]

                                            A medical examination usually consists of a health questionnaire, a lung function test (spirometry) and maybe a chest x-ray to determine if the person is "fit for work" in the asbestos removal industry.

                                            The asbestos licence holder must obtain a summary of results of a medical examination of a person as required by the OHS regulations, indicating whether an asbestos-related disease exists and the fitness of the person to engage in asbestos removal work and must also retain a copy of the summary of results for 30 years. [Regulation 283]

                                            A summary of results for a person performing asbestos removal work for the asbestos removal licence holder must be made available for inspection upon request under the OHS Act. [Regulation 20(2)(c)]

                                            Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

                                            The asbestos removal licence holder must provide employees performing asbestos removal work, and independent contractors operating an excavator (Class A only), with PPE including respiratory protection equipment (RPE) that is suitable for the removal work. [Regulation 276]

                                            In providing PPE and RPE, the asbestos removal licence holder must ensure that all asbestos removalists and independent contractors operating an excavator (Class A only) are appropriately informed, instructed, trained and supervised on the safe use of PPE. Training should include correct wearing of PPE and RPE, decontamination procedures, RPE fit checking and cleaning, inspection and maintenance of RPE. Training should be provided by a competent person with the requisite skills and knowledge in PPE and RPE for asbestos removal (for example, an occupational hygienist with asbestos experience and training ability).

                                            For asbestos contaminated bushfire affected properties, PPE and RPE requirements for asbestos removal work include:

                                            Asbestos removal work

                                            Asbestos notification

                                            The asbestos removal licence holder must provide the following amount of notice to WorkSafe before commencing asbestos removal work on a bushfire affected property:

                                            • at least 24 hours before the proposed work commences for non-friable ACM of 10sq metres or less
                                              • at least 5 days before the proposed work commences in any other case (including friable ACM, or non-friable ACM greater than 10sq metres)

                                                [Regulation 298(1)]

                                                The notification must include specified information including:

                                                • details of asbestos removal licence holder, including licence details, ABN or ACN
                                                  • site supervisor details, including contact number
                                                    • asbestos removal site details
                                                      • starting date and estimated finishing date
                                                        • contact details of client

                                                          The notification can be completed online by creating a WorkSafe account:

                                                          The asbestos licence holder must notify WorkSafe in writing of any changes to the original notification as soon as reasonably possible. [Regulation 298 (4)]

                                                          Notification can be done by emailing the closest regional WorkSafe office to where the asbestos removal work is being carried out.

                                                          Examples of when an asbestos removal licence holder must notify WorkSafe of changes to the notification include:

                                                          • the start date for the asbestos removal work has changed
                                                            • the asbestos removal work will be shorter or longer than the estimated finishing date
                                                              • the asbestos removal site details are incorrect

                                                                A change in site supervisor does not require the asbestos licence holder to notify WorkSafe.

                                                                Variation to notification period

                                                                WorkSafe may vary the notice requirements for an asbestos removal licence holder by including a specific condition in the asbestos removal licence. [Regulation 298 (7)]. This may include the notification period specific to asbestos removal works within a bushfire affected area. To request a variation of the 5 day notification period to a shorter timeframe, the asbestos licence holder should email [email protected] and must provide the following details:

                                                                • company name
                                                                  • Australian Business Number (ABN)
                                                                    • Asbestos Removal Licence Number
                                                                      • notification period variation request (eg. 48 hours before removal work commences)
                                                                        • reason for notification variation request (eg. asbestos removal in bushfire affected area)
                                                                          • time period for notification variation (eg. 3/6/12 months, depending on the extent of the work)

                                                                            If approved, the terms and conditions of the applicant's licence will be updated accordingly.

                                                                            Multiple properties under single notification

                                                                            Where an asbestos licence holder intends to undertake asbestos removal at multiple properties in a bushfire affected area, the licence holder may make a notification for each property or can make one notification for all properties in the area.

                                                                            For multiple sites under one notification, barricading would be installed around all of the properties collectively to prevent access by persons not involved in the asbestos removal work. The site supervisor must be able to supervise all removal work, as well as directly supervise any independent contractors operating excavators (Class A asbestos removal work only). If this cannot be achieved, then the size of the asbestos removal area should be reduced.

                                                                            Bushfire damaged properties that are separated by undamaged houses or vacant land will be treated separately and require an individual notification to WorkSafe for each property.

                                                                            Documentation to be kept onsite

                                                                            The asbestos removal licence holder must always keep the following documentation on site for the duration of the asbestos removal work:

                                                                            • asbestos removal licence [Regulation 476]
                                                                              • asbestos control plan [Regulation 273]
                                                                                • training documents for employees and independent contractors [Regulation 270]

                                                                                  The following documentation must be made available for inspection upon request by a WorkSafe inspector under the OHS Act:

                                                                                  • summary of health medical assessments for employees and independent contractors
                                                                                    • results of asbestos fibre air monitoring
                                                                                      • clearance certificates

                                                                                        Asbestos Control Plan (ACP)

                                                                                        Before commencing asbestos removal work, the asbestos removal licence holder must prepare an ACP. The ACP will identify the specific risk control measures that will be used onsite based on the information provided in the site risk assessment (as outlined above), to ensure that persons are not exposed to health and safety risks while the asbestos removal work is being performed.

                                                                                        The site-specific ACP needs to be completed before any asbestos removal works begin for the property or group of properties listed in the asbestos notification. The ACP must be readily accessible on site for the duration of the asbestos removal work. [Regulations 272 and 273]

                                                                                        Following is some of the information required to be included in an ACP:

                                                                                        • a record to indicate notice requirements and the required documentation is available onsite
                                                                                          • asbestos location, type, quantity, condition and whether the asbestos is friable or non-friable
                                                                                            • type of PPE to be used, including respiratory protection
                                                                                              • site set up, including signage and barricading
                                                                                                • asbestos removal work practices
                                                                                                  • risk control measures to prevent release of airborne asbestos fibres, eg. water spray to suppress dust
                                                                                                    • decontamination procedures, including personal and equipment/plant
                                                                                                      • decontamination and management of recycled materials
                                                                                                        • method of disposal of asbestos waste
                                                                                                          • administrative controls to be implemented, including security and work practices
                                                                                                            • name of person(s) used to conduct air monitoring and clearance inspections
                                                                                                              • name of independent contractor(s) used to operate excavators

                                                                                                                For full details of what is required in an ACP refer to Schedule 12 of the OHS Regulations 2017.

                                                                                                                Signs and barricades

                                                                                                                The asbestos removal licence holder performing asbestos clean-up on a bushfire affected property must ensure that the site where asbestos removal work is being performed is barricaded, and appropriately placed signage is displayed to indicate where the asbestos removal work is taking place. [Regulation 277 (a)]

                                                                                                                Barricades are used to identify the asbestos removal work site and to reduce the risk of unprotected persons accessing that site until the site has been deemed clear of any asbestos contaminated materials. Barricades may include asbestos tape or a solid barricade such as temporary fencing. The choice of barricade depends on the level of risk to unprotected persons. In populated areas, where there may be an increased risk of unprotected persons accessing the site, it is recommended that temporary fencing be installed, whereas barricade tape may be appropriate for asbestos removal in remote areas.

                                                                                                                When determining the placement of barricades around the asbestos removal site, consideration should be given to:

                                                                                                                • the quantity of asbestos contaminated materials to be cleaned-up
                                                                                                                  • location of personal, equipment and recyclable decontamination areas
                                                                                                                    • the size of the area needed to place decontaminated recyclable materials
                                                                                                                      • the truck loading area for asbestos contaminated waste
                                                                                                                        • activity around the site, including any other workers, property owners, government workers and neighbouring properties

                                                                                                                          It is recommended that, where possible, the barricades be placed at a distance of at least 10m from the asbestos removal area, the contaminated recyclable materials storage, and the truck loading area. This would be based on the site risk assessment taking into account remote areas or areas of difficult terrain.

                                                                                                                          Signage needs to clearly specify that asbestos removal work is occurring and, so far as reasonably possible, be placed to indicate the area where the activity is being carried out. This should include displaying signage securely in prominent locations around the site including all site entrances. Signs should be in accordance with Australian Standard AS1319 Safety signs for the occupational environment.

                                                                                                                          The asbestos removal licence holder must ensure that only the following persons have access to the asbestos removal area:

                                                                                                                          • persons performing asbestos removal work, ie. direct employees and independent contractors engaged to operate an excavator (for Class A work only)
                                                                                                                            • persons engaged in work incidental to asbestos removal work who require access during that work (for example, an occupational hygienist or arborist)
                                                                                                                              • persons with a statutory right to be present (for example, members of Victoria Police). [Regulation 277 (b)]

                                                                                                                                Appropriate PPE, instruction and training must be provided, and records should be kept by the asbestos licence holder of all persons accessing the site.

                                                                                                                                For all friable asbestos removal work and any non-friable asbestos removal work greater than 10m2, all signs and barricades need to remain in place until an independent person* has performed a visual inspection and the clearance certificate has been received by the person who commissioned the work. [*see Independent person section]

                                                                                                                                Upon receipt of the clearance certificate, the asbestos removal licence holder can remove all signage and barricades and the area can be reoccupied.

                                                                                                                                Decontamination facilities

                                                                                                                                The asbestos removal licence holder must provide adequate facilities for personal decontamination and decontamination of tools and equipment (including plant) for the duration of the asbestos removal work. [Regulation 278(1)]

                                                                                                                                Dust suppression

                                                                                                                                A Class A asbestos removal licence holder must control the risk of airborne dust during the asbestos clean-up works, so as to prevent the release of airborne asbestos fibres. This can be achieved by using wet methods, such as using water spray (this does not include the use of a high pressure water jet, which is a prohibited activity) to soak or totally saturate the asbestos contaminated materials. [Regulation 286]

                                                                                                                                The asbestos removal licence holder must ensure that asbestos removal work is performed in a manner that, so far as is reasonably practicable, prevents the contamination of areas adjacent to the asbestos removal area. Water run-off from dust suppression procedures should be controlled to prevent contamination of nearby sites. This can be achieved by using hay bales, soil mounds, snake booms etc, with all materials used to be disposed of as asbestos contaminated waste at the end of the job. Any visible or suspected ACM captured as a result of the water run-off is to be collected and disposed of as asbestos waste.

                                                                                                                                Recyclable material

                                                                                                                                To decontaminate recyclable material:

                                                                                                                                • All material should be washed down to remove any contamination (this may be done by the excavator lifting the material so that all sides of the material can be washed using water spray).
                                                                                                                                  • Bushfire affected vehicles or plant/equipment that is to be recycled should also be washed down internally and externally using water spray.
                                                                                                                                    • A designated area for placing recyclable material following decontamination should be set up in a clean area on the site.
                                                                                                                                      • All recyclable material is required to be visually inspected by an independent person* to determine that no visible asbestos contamination remains on the material before it leaves the site. [*see Independent person section]
                                                                                                                                        • The visual inspection may occur when the recyclable material is placed in the designated area on site or when the material is directly being placed into the skip bin or truck prior to transport offsite. In either case all surfaces of the material needs to be clearly visible to inspect.
                                                                                                                                          • The independent person* must provide a clearance certificate stating that all recyclable material has been visually inspected and no visible asbestos contamination remains. [*see Independent person section]
                                                                                                                                            • A copy of the clearance certificate should be provided to the person receiving the recyclable material.

                                                                                                                                              The asbestos removal licence holder must ensure that asbestos removal work is performed in a manner that, so far as is reasonably practicable, prevents the contamination of areas adjacent to the asbestos removal area. Water run-off from decontamination of recyclable materials should be controlled to prevent contamination of nearby sites. This can be achieved by using hay bales, soil mounds, snake booms etc, with all materials used to be disposed of as asbestos contaminated waste at the end of the job. Any visible or suspected ACM captured as a result of the water run-off is to be collected and disposed of as asbestos waste.

                                                                                                                                              Asbestos contaminated soil

                                                                                                                                              Following the clean-up of ACM, the surface of the soil should also be removed as asbestos contaminated waste. This can be achieved by taking a scrape of the top layer of soil (approximately 100mm) from the asbestos removal area and surrounding areas, such as the truck load out area. The depth of the scraping to be removed should be determined by a competent person who has a good understanding of the contamination and soil. Once the soil has been removed, the area must be visually inspected by an independent person* to make sure the surface is visibly clear of any ACM. If this has not been achieved a further surface scrape may be required. [*see Independent person section]

                                                                                                                                              Truck load-out

                                                                                                                                              The asbestos removal licence holder is required to have a designated truck area for loading of asbestos contaminated waste using an excavator. The area will be located inside the barricades, at the edge of the asbestos removal area to prevent contamination of the underside of the truck and the tyres. The truck area will allow the excavator to safely load asbestos contaminated waste into the truck trailer and provide a clear pathway for the truck to enter and exit the site safely and without risks to people working on the site.

                                                                                                                                              For smaller quantities of asbestos contaminated waste, a small truck or ute registered to carry the waste may be used. Loading of the vehicle should be carried out in a controlled area to prevent contamination of the vehicle.

                                                                                                                                              Transport and disposal of asbestos contaminated waste

                                                                                                                                              The asbestos removal licence holder must ensure that the asbestos waste is disposed of as soon as reasonably possible and in a manner that eliminates the release of airborne asbestos fibres. [Regulation 280(a) and (b)]

                                                                                                                                              The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) regulates and manages (including waste classification) the transport and disposal of asbestos contaminated waste from bushfire affected areas. When the transport of asbestos contaminated waste is carried out by a commercial contractor, the EPA requires transport certificates and a permitted vehicle to be used. Any variation or exemptions from EPA requirements must be sought from EPA directly.

                                                                                                                                              The owner of the vehicle that is transporting the asbestos contaminated waste must transport the waste in accordance with EPA requirements, which may include requirements for safe handling, transport and disposal of waste. The asbestos contaminated waste must be packaged and remain intact during transport and disposal. Disposal must only occur at a site that is licensed by the EPA to accept the asbestos contaminated waste.

                                                                                                                                              Independent Person

                                                                                                                                              An independent person is a person who, in relation to carrying out a relevant function in relation to asbestos removal work:

                                                                                                                                              • is independent from the following (if applicable):
                                                                                                                                                • the employer or self employed person performing the asbestos removal work
                                                                                                                                                • the asbestos removal licence holder performing the asbestos removal work
                                                                                                                                                • the person who commissioned the asbestos removal work
                                                                                                                                              • does not have a conflict of interest in carrying out the relevant function, and
                                                                                                                                                • has the requisite knowledge, skills and experience to carry out the relevant function.

                                                                                                                                                  [Regulation 207]

                                                                                                                                                  A relevant function means:

                                                                                                                                                  • the determination of airborne asbestos fibre levels
                                                                                                                                                    • the visual inspection of an areas for visible asbestos residue
                                                                                                                                                      • the provision of a Clearance Certificate

                                                                                                                                                        An independent person must have the requisite knowledge, skills and experience to carry out the relevant function. [Regulation 207(1)(c)]

                                                                                                                                                        Requisite knowledge, skills and experience

                                                                                                                                                        The person who commissions the asbestos removal work must ensure the independent person engaged to perform asbestos paraoccupational air monitoring (where required) and visual inspections has the requisite knowledge, skills and experience (including experience in asbestos removal activities) to carry out these duties. [Regulation 296]

                                                                                                                                                        For the purposes of determining if paraoccupational air monitoring is required, the person performing this task should have:

                                                                                                                                                        • knowledge of how to conduct airborne asbestos monitoring of asbestos removal work
                                                                                                                                                          • the ability to interpret NATA-endorsed paraoccupational air monitoring reports for friable removal work
                                                                                                                                                            • knowledge of risks and consequences of exposure to airborne asbestos fibres
                                                                                                                                                              • the ability to identify the likelihood of exposure to airborne asbestos fibres in relation to specific work practices
                                                                                                                                                                • knowledge of safe asbestos removal methods, the asbestos removal industry, and Victorian OHS legislation

                                                                                                                                                                  For the purposes of performing a visual inspection of an area to verify that there is no visible asbestos residue or giving a clearance certificate, the person performing this task should have:

                                                                                                                                                                  • knowledge of risks and consequences of asbestos exposure
                                                                                                                                                                    • the ability to identify what is or what may be asbestos
                                                                                                                                                                      • the ability to thoroughly inspect the area for suspect material
                                                                                                                                                                        • experience in asbestos removal work relevant to asbestos contamination following a bushfire
                                                                                                                                                                          • knowledge of safe asbestos removal methods, the asbestos removal industry, and Victorian OHS legislation

                                                                                                                                                                            An example of a person with the requisite knowledge, skills and experience is an occupational hygienist with asbestos experience. The Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists provides a list of occupational hygienists.

                                                                                                                                                                            The person proposing to engage an independent person should ask for referees and examples of clearance certificates issued for other asbestos removal work undertaken.

                                                                                                                                                                            Asbestos paraoccupational air monitoring

                                                                                                                                                                            Paraoccupational air monitoring (also known as 'static' or 'control' monitoring) involves taking samples of air from fixed locations which are usually immediately outside the area where Class A asbestos removal is taking place. The purpose of this monitoring is to identify whether airborne asbestos fibres are present outside the removal area and to ensure that risk control measures designed to prevent airborne asbestos are working.

                                                                                                                                                                            The person who commissions the outdoor Class A asbestos removal work must arrange for asbestos paraoccupational air monitoring to be conducted when the outdoor work will constitute a risk to others. [Regulation 292(1)(b)]

                                                                                                                                                                            Assessment of risk to others

                                                                                                                                                                            As the vast majority of Class A asbestos clean-up work post bushfire is outdoors, an assessment by a competent person as to whether the work constitutes risk to others will need to be made to determine whether air monitoring is required. The competent person needs to have requisite skills knowledge and experience. Information on how to establish whether a person is appropriate to make this decision can be found above under the ‘Requisite knowledge, skills and experience' section above.

                                                                                                                                                                            In the majority of cases where asbestos removal work is performed outdoors and the circumstances do not require the remaining structure to be enclosed then the removal work is not likely to constitute a risk to others. However each asbestos removal job needs to be individually assessed to determine whether the removal work will constitute such a risk.

                                                                                                                                                                            Situations where there could be a risk to others (and therefore require air monitoring) include when the Class A asbestos removal work is being carried out:

                                                                                                                                                                            • in an area adjacent to occupied properties
                                                                                                                                                                              • in close vicinity to roads that are regularly used during the removal work
                                                                                                                                                                                • near areas where other trades are working
                                                                                                                                                                                  • at the clean end of a decontamination area where others are in the vicinity
                                                                                                                                                                                    • near areas where other persons, such as truck drivers, property owners or project managers meet to oversee bushfire recovery work

                                                                                                                                                                                      Examples of asbestos removal work that may not constitute a risk to others, and therefore would not require air monitoring, include:

                                                                                                                                                                                      • the ACM has been deemed to be non-friable by the independent person during the site risk assessment
                                                                                                                                                                                        • remote buildings on properties well isolated from adjacent properties
                                                                                                                                                                                          • sites where it is possible to establish large (15m+) exclusion zones beyond the normal boundaries of removal work and decontamination areas

                                                                                                                                                                                            This assessment is site specific, meaning each property needs an individual risk assessment to determine if air monitoring is required, and if so, how many air monitoring pumps are required to be set up and their locations.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Asbestos paraoccupational air monitoring requirements

                                                                                                                                                                                            If it has been determined that air monitoring is required, removal work cannot commence until the paraoccupational air monitoring has commenced and removal work at a site cannot recommence until the results of the most recent air monitoring have been obtained. [Regulation 287]

                                                                                                                                                                                            The requirement to obtain the results of previous air monitoring before work recommences:

                                                                                                                                                                                            • ensures that any cause of potential elevated asbestos airborne fibres can be addressed as soon as possible
                                                                                                                                                                                              • provides a high level of confidence that all work is being carried out in a controlled manner and not causing risk to other persons, including workers, neighbours and other people within the area

                                                                                                                                                                                                A person who commissions Class A asbestos removal work must provide the results of asbestos paraoccupational air monitoring to the asbestos removal licence holder as soon as the results are received. [Regulation 293(1)]

                                                                                                                                                                                                The Class A asbestos removal licence holder must make the results of asbestos paraoccupational air monitoring readily accessible to employees, including independent contractors at the worksite.  [Regulation 288]

                                                                                                                                                                                                Analysis of results by NATA-approved laboratory

                                                                                                                                                                                                Only a NATA-accredited asbestos laboratory can perform asbestos fibre counting, with all results being reported in accordance with the requirements of NATA. Endorsed reports have a NATA insignia stamped on the report.

                                                                                                                                                                                                To ensure the asbestos paraoccupational air monitoring results can be made available prior to work recommencing, some NATA-accredited facilities have the resources to set up a mobile laboratory.  The person who is commissioning the Class A asbestos removal work should consult with the NATA accredited facility to determine if this option is available for asbestos removal work that is being carried out in remote locations. Turnaround of the analysis results will impact on the progress and completion of bushfire impacted asbestos removal jobs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Find a NATA accredited facility:

                                                                                                                                                                                                Clearance certificate

                                                                                                                                                                                                On completion of the asbestos removal work, the person who commissioned the work must arrange for a visual inspection by an independent person to verify that there is no visible asbestos remaining as a result of the work in the area where the work was performed or in the area immediately surrounding the area where the work was performed. [Regulation 294(1)]

                                                                                                                                                                                                A visual inspection by an independent person is not required if the asbestos removal work consisted only of the removal of non-friable asbestos-containing material not exceeding 10 square metres in total. [Regulation 294(1A)]

                                                                                                                                                                                                The person who commissioned the Class A or Class B removal work must then obtain a clearance certificate from the independent person on completion of the asbestos removal work and before the area where the asbestos removal has taken place can be reoccupied. [Regulation 297]

                                                                                                                                                                                                A visual inspection by an independent person should include:

                                                                                                                                                                                                • understanding what was removed (or was expected to be removed) by the asbestos removal licence holder
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • undertaking a visual inspection of the asbestos removal area and areas immediately surrounding the asbestos removal area, including truck load-out area and decontamination areas
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • if visible asbestos is identified, notifying the asbestos removalist and reinspecting the asbestos removal area and areas immediately surrounding the asbestos removal area once cleanup has been completed
                                                                                                                                                                                                      • issuing a clearance certificate only when satisfied that as a result of a final visual inspection there is no visible asbestos in the asbestos removal area and in areas immediately surrounding the asbestos removal area
                                                                                                                                                                                                        • identifying any areas that were not part of the asbestos removal works that may impact on subsequent users of the area
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • signing off attending the site and undertaking the inspection

                                                                                                                                                                                                            A clearance certificate is a written statement that specifies:

                                                                                                                                                                                                            • where asbestos removal work has taken place
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • the type of ACMs removed
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • the removal area and surrounding areas have been cleaned of any visible asbestos containing debris associated with that removal, and
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • if clearance paraoccupational air monitoring was undertaken, that airborne asbestos levels are less than 0.01 f/ml in the areas where the samples were taken
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • (Please note: Clearance paraoccupational air monitoring is not required for outdoor friable asbestos removal work).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The Class A asbestos removal licence holder must be provided with the results of the visual inspection and paraoccupational air monitoring if undertaken, from the person who commissions the Class A removal work (ie. the head contractor) before any signage and barricades can be removed and the area be reoccupied.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Discovery of personal items

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  On occasion, following the commencement of asbestos removal work, there may be a request from a property owner to access their bushfire affected property for the purpose of looking for personal items.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Once the asbestos removal work has commenced on the property, access must be denied to persons (including property owners) that are not:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • performing the asbestos removal work, or
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • carrying out work that is incidental to the asbestos removal work, or
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • a member of Victoria Police or a person with a statutory right to be present

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        [Regulation 277(b)]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        WorkSafe Victoria considers work to have commenced once the asbestos removalists are onsite in full PPE.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It is recommended that the property owner provide information on personal items to the person who commissions the asbestos removal work prior to the asbestos removal work beginning and this information be made available to the asbestos removalists prior to them commencing the asbestos removal work. Any personal items located by the asbestos removalists will be required to undergo decontamination and a visual inspection by an independent person before being given to the property owner.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The site can be reoccupied by anyone, including a property owner, once the site has been cleared of all visible asbestos, inspected by an independent person and a clearance certificate issued.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Exemptions to regulations

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        In some situations, WorkSafe may exempt a person from complying with certain duties under the OHS Regulations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        To obtain an exemption, an application must be made to WorkSafe which provides specified information including the requirement which the applicant wishes to be exempt from, and the reason why the exemption is sought.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        WorkSafe can grant an exemption from compliance with a provision of the OHS Regulations if it is satisfied that:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • the granting of the exemption will result in an at least an equivalent level of health and safety as if the relevant provision had been followed, or
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • the provision is administrative and would be inappropriate or unnecessary in the circumstances

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            WorkSafe’s role

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            WorkSafe is the regulator of Victoria’s occupational health and safety (OHS) laws.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Our inspectors target unsafe workplace activity, respond to notifiable incidents, provide guidance and advice on how to comply with health and safety laws, and enforce those laws. WorkSafe inspectors have legislated powers to enter a workplace during working hours, or when they have formed a reasonable belief of an immediate risk to anyone, to assess compliance with health and safety laws.