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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 26 March 2015) . . Page.. 1195 ..

At present an asbestos removalist’s licence does not require a licensee to have the specialist knowledge required to safely remove critical infrastructure of a building. A builder’s licence does require this specialist knowledge, but under the construction occupation licensing laws a builder’s licence does not allow the handling of asbestos.

What this means is that there is a regulatory gap with safety implications not just for the public but also for workers. For example, if a Mr Fluffy house is to be demolished, it ought to be done by or supervised by a licensed builder whose licence authorises demolition. However, the builder cannot do the work or supervise doing the work because the builder’s licence does not apply to work when asbestos is present. Only an asbestos removalist can do the asbestos removal but the removalist does not have the specialist knowledge, nor does his licence qualify him, to safely demolish a building.

So it has become apparent that the construction and building laws need to continue to regulate structural and other critical building work even if it involves the handling of asbestos. For this reason the bill removes the restriction imposed by section 8 of the Construction Occupations (Licensing) Act on builders dealing with asbestos. This ensures that building work that warrants a licensed builder’s expertise or supervision is within the scope of licensable work of a builder. This will not extend to removal of non-structural or otherwise non-critical asbestos cement sheeting, for example, from buildings where a builder is not warranted.

Non-critical work will only require a licensed asbestos removalist and will generally be exempted from construction and building laws, particularly by the schedules of exempt building work under schedule 1 of the Building (General) Regulation 2008. However, work critical to the structure or fire protection of buildings will, under this bill, be the responsibility of a licensed builder.

The bill also makes a number of amendments to remove references to “asbestos” in the Building Act and, in particular, asbestos codes. For example, clause 7 and clauses 13 to 18, as I said earlier, are asbestos-related laws that were moved to work health and safety and dangerous substances laws last year. These laws now deal with asbestos codes, and references to asbestos codes in the Building Act are no longer necessary.

I would now like to move on to the other amendments made by the bill. In making the amendments to the building legislation that I have just discussed, the opportunity was also taken to consolidate and clarify the Building Act exemption provisions, including where they are related to asbestos. The present structure of the Building Act in this regard was rather convoluted, so the proposed amendments are intended to clarify and simplify the exemption provisions in the act.

The bill amends provisions related to the exemption of “building work” from the operation of the Building Act or parts of the act. Existing sections 15, 65 and 83 of the act relate to the exemption of “building work” from the relevant parts of the act. This is in contrast to the single exemption provision for “a building” in section 152 of the act that applies to all of the act or parts of the act.

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