The scourge of Asbestos has dominated the headlines in the ACT recently mainly due to the well-publicised Mr Fluffy loose fill asbestos insulation saga. Whist this heightened media exposure has caused the ACT government to act definitively for the home owners of these 1000 odd effected properties, what about the countless tradespeople who have worked on these properties over the years blissfully unaware of the dangers they faced hidden in the wall cavities and underfloor spaces. The fact is that workers likely to encounter Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) products through their respective occupations had been required to undertake basic asbestos awareness training for many years. The fact is this was poorly managed at a government level and the reality was many employers in identified occupations never ensured the proper training was implemented.
Through the ETU and other construction union’s representation on the ACT’s peak Workplace Health and Safety advisory body; the Work Safety Council, the issue of proper asbestos training has been firmly on the agenda for many years. Together with the backing of the ACT Work Safety Commissioner, Mark McCabe and other relevant industry associations, a new mandatory regime of Asbestos Awareness training was developed in 2013 and was designed to capture all workers that are likely to encounter asbestos in the workplace as identified in a list of prescribed occupations. This training was required to be provided to all existing employees by 30 September 2014 and subsequently all new employees prior to them starting work. Along with existing mandatory training and licensing of asbestos removalists and assessors, this awareness training formed two of the three tiered approach to asbestos training for the ACT.
The final or third tier of the Asbestos training framework for ACT is now finally underway. This new package is particularly relevant to electrical and communications workers in the ACT as it finally deals with the elephant in the room……working with asbestos. The fact remains that many electrical and communication workers are often faced with tasks involving the cutting, drilling, penetrating or fixing to ACM products in older premises. Asbestos related work, if carried out correctly, drastically reduces the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres; if not done correctly, exposure to airborne fibres increases dramatically not only for the person doing the work but also others around them.
The aim of this new training package is designed to provide workers with the skills and knowledge to perform these tasks safely, competently, efficiently. It will cover all aspects of Asbestos Related Work from initial planning and risk assessment, selection and use of correct PPE, asbestos fibre containment methods, appropriate disposal of residual asbestos, correct decontamination methods for the site, any tools and protective clothing. It is intended that the training will be developed as a national unit of competency and will only be delivered by accredited register training organisations. Accreditation will be overseen by the project steering committee of which the CEPU is represented. It is anticipated that the final package will be ready for delivery in the first quarter of 2015. The new training will be mandatory for all workers in occupations where asbestos related work is carried out.
The ETU commends the work of the ACT Work Safety Council and the support of the Work Safety Commissioner in not only endorsing, but actively campaigning for this long overdue package of mandatory safety training. The ACT is now leading the way in effective and legislative asbestos training nationally and we call on other jurisdictions to follow suit and mandate asbestos training for all effected workers.
For more information on this subject contact Matt McCann at the CEPU on firstname.lastname@example.org