Page 3060 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 23 August 2005

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more than 90 per cent of the confirmed MCAs in residential premises was asbestos cement sheeting located either externally, such as it in eaves, or in internal wet areas such as laundries and bathrooms;

over 90 per cent of all MCAs in residential premises were considered to be in good condition and presented a low risk to occupants;

in contrast to the residential sector, the phase-out date for the use of MCAs in the non-residential sector is 2003. While the majority of building products were phased out in mid-1980s, other MCAs continued to be used in plant room gaskets and similar products until more recently. As a result, the task force was not able to confidently establish an earlier phase-out date;

non-residential buildings vary considerably in their structure and have more widespread types and uses of MCAs;

eighty-four per cent of all asbestos materials in non-residential premises were considered to be in good condition and present a low risk to occupants.

Having gathered information on the extent of asbestos in the ACT, the task force then went on to consider the impact its presence had on those who live or work in buildings containing MCAs as well as those who handle and work with it on a regular basis. Using an independent health risk assessment, the task force concluded that living or working in buildings that contained MCAs presented low risk. However, the disturbance of MCAs and the release of asbestos fibres over a sustained or concentrated period is likely to result in a high risk for groups such as tradespeople and do-it-yourself home renovators.

The findings of the community awareness survey and extent and impact survey support the direction taken by the task force in recommending three separate regimes for the future management and control of asbestos in our community, targeting the residential sector, non-residential sector and those trade groups who handle asbestos materials on a regular basis.

The new approaches proposed by the task force are based on best practice in asbestos management and the most current scientific knowledge and a critique of the current legislation in light of the risks posed by asbestos in the ACT. The task force believes that simply providing information on what people know, as required by section 47J, will not be sufficient in improving behaviour when working with MCAs or reducing the risk of being exposed to asbestos fibres. The committee is also concerned about providing uninformed written advice on the presence and location of MCAs, and subsequent liabilities that may fall to property owners.

There are also practical issues associated with sections 47K and 47L that require asbestos survey reports when selling a property or engaging in high-risk activities. The task force cites as particular issues a shortage of asbestos assessors to prepare asbestos survey reports, the relatively high costs of obtaining a report and the currency of reports to the point of sale. The three regimes proposed by the task force will address these issues and provide a more effective and enduring system of asbestos management.

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