Asbestos was banned in domestic building materials in the 1980s, however, it was still used in Australia up until December 2003, before asbestos, and all products containing asbestos, were eventually banned.
Despite the ban on asbestos use, new cases of mesothelioma have highlighted the human cost of previous occupational exposure to asbestos. Not only is there the human cost, associated with the individual, and their families; but there are costs to the employer.
Asbestos is still an emotive topic, and employers will often have a potential reputational risk from unfavourable media attention. There is also the additional cost implications of common and statute law. A significant milestone occurred when the High Court [case HCATrans 153] rejected BHP Billiton’s appeal for special leave to argue a mesothelioma case. The High Court found that an employer had to undertake precautions, they had to protect their workers, even where the exposure was below the occupational standard.
This High Court decision, together with recent changes to State legislation, serve as timely reminders to review your asbestos obligations. As an employer, you should understand your legal obligations and review your Asbestos Register, Risk Assessment, and Asbestos Management Plan.
The site owner is responsible for the identification, and management of an Asbestos Register and the implementation of an Asbestos Management Plan.
As a tenant, the 'person conducting a business or undertaking' (PCBU) has the statutory obligation to review the Asbestos Register (as prepared by the landlord) and implement an Asbestos Management Plan.
Peter J Ramsay & Associates can provide assistance in further understanding your obligations and responsibilities in managing asbestos in the workplace.