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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 17 March 2015) . . Page.. 763 ..

Substances Act 2004 insofar as they apply to situations not covered by the work health and safety laws, including do-it-yourself home renovations.

One of the key components of adopting the national model asbestos regulations is that WorkSafe ACT must now be notified five days prior to asbestos removal activities taking place. This new notification provision allows the safety regulator to be increasingly proactive in its oversight of asbestos removal through early engagement in the process. WorkSafe ACT is also responsible for enforcing the government’s decision to no longer allow the removal of up to 10 square metres of non-friable asbestos, or asbestos contaminated dust, without an asbestos removal licence.

Last year the territory also mandated an asbestos awareness training course that must be undertaken by workers who carry out or may carry out work involving asbestos. A list of occupations that must undertake this training course was also declared. This gives workers the knowledge to identify material containing asbestos and is a vital first step in increasing asbestos safety in the territory.

In keeping with the government’s commitment to protect the health and safety of territory workers, the purpose of this bill is to increase workers’ asbestos awareness of locations where there is a known risk of potential exposure. The bill amends the Dangerous Substances Act 2004 and requires the minister to maintain a register of residential premises that contain or have contained loose-fill asbestos insulation. While I appreciate there are concerns among some home owners who are worried about their privacy once the register is made public, we need to appreciate that a legitimate public interest is at stake. As minister for workplace safety my primary focus is that tradespeople are fully informed of potential future exposure to asbestos as well as potential exposure in the past. By maintaining a register of affected residential premises, we are able to make one of the most powerful work health and safety tools—information—readily available to the people who need it when they need it.

The bill builds on changes to the Dangerous Substances (General) Regulation 2004, requiring warning signs to be displayed at affected premises. This requirement commenced on 1 January this year, and tradespeople who attend premises can readily ascertain whether the premises are affected by loose-fill asbestos insulation by looking at the electricity meter box and the switchboard. The current amendments before the Assembly serve a broader function in that this information is available to tradespeople and also to their employers at a point in time well before they physically attend the premises. This information allows appropriate precautions to be taken. Importantly for tradespeople, the register will allow workers who have carried out renovation jobs on older houses in the past to check whether any of those houses were affected by loose-fill asbestos and whether they have potentially been exposed to loose-fill asbestos in the past.

One thing to note is that while the information mechanisms such as the affected residential premises register and the warning stickers on electricity meter boxes are in place, this does not absolve a home owner from their responsibility to inform tradespeople, tenants or potential buyers that the home is affected by loose-fill

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