The federal government has announced an additional $6.4 million to help the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency tackle the material’s dangerous legacy in Australia.
The agency will use the funding for the implementation of the National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Awareness and Management.
Minister for workplace relations Bill Shorten made the announcement today (July 31), noting that asbestos-related deaths aren’t likely to peak until 2020.
“The government is determined to ensure Australia is a world leader in the safe removal of asbestos containing materials in homes and workplaces,” said Mr Shorten in a statement.
“The additional $6.4 million will allow the agency to develop strategies for awareness raising, conduct research, improve identification techniques and finding and sharing best practice in asbestos management and handling.”
Master Builders Australia welcomed the minister’s announcement and voiced its support for new standards regarding the management, control and removal of asbestos.
Chief executive Wilhelm Harnisch noted in a statement that those most at risk of being exposed to the dangerous dust and fibres of the material have changed with time.
“The occupations that account for the greatest numbers of Mesothelioma cases have changed over the years from miners/millers, product manufacturers and insulation workers to other end-users of asbestos-containing materials, in particular workers in the building and construction industry and in shipyards,” said Mr Harnisch.
“Although the level of individual risk is lower for such end-users, the higher number of workers in building and construction means that these workers contribute greater absolute numbers to the national Mesothelioma toll.”
Mr Harnisch noted that one aspect of the government’s plan for improving asbestos safety was cause for concern.
This is a program to prioritise the removal of the material from commercial and government buildings.
“Such a plan would create unnecessary risks to workers involved in the removal, transport and disposal of the asbestos and to the public,” he said.
A preferred approach, Mr Harnisch argues, would be to not disturbed bonded asbestos that is in good condition, as this does not pose a health risk.
Where asbestos containing material threaten to be exposed or is at risk of deteriorating, Master Builders says that a licensed professional should be brought in to remove it safety.
Anyone who suspects they may have been exposed to asbestos dust or fibres can contact specialist injury compensation lawyers for a free consultation to learn whether they or their family members may be entitled to compensation.