Ensuring Safety: Effective Management of Asbestos in Commercial Buildings in Melbourne

Asbestos in commercial buildings, a term that echoes through the hallways, carries a significant burden of responsibility. This mineral, hailed for its fire resistance and durability, hides a deadly secret – the potential to cause serious health complications when improperly managed. But fear not, for the labyrinth of commercial asbestos management is navigable with the proper knowledge and guidance.

Key Takeaways

  • Commercial property owners must identify and regulate workplace exposure to airborne asbestos fibres.
  • Businesses should have an asbestos management plan with regular updates every five years and safe removal practices for contaminated dust and materials.
  • Careful planning is essential when undertaking renovations or demolitions involving buildings containing asbestos, including engaging licensed contractors and supplying workers with protective equipment.

Identifying Asbestos in Commercial Properties

The process starts with identifying asbestos. Asbestos, though invisible, may be present and requires detection. Its presence is often recorded in an Asbestos Register, a tome of knowledge that lists all identified asbestos, assumed asbestos present, and areas where this mineral could be located.

So, how does one unmask the presence of asbestos? The commercial property owner, akin to a detective, must identify asbestos under their control. The process of identification is akin to a path split in two. One path leads to certainty, where asbestos is undoubtedly present. The other leads to uncertainty, where asbestos is suspected but not confirmed. In such cases, the golden rule is to treat the material as if asbestos is present or to send a sample for scientific testing by a NATA-approved laboratory for confirmation.

When asbestos is detected, managing it becomes the subsequent action. This involves indicating its location, typically through labelling and updating the asbestos register. In the case of deteriorated or disturbed asbestos, the risk of airborne fibre exposure necessitates safe removal by a licensed asbestos removalist and an update to the asbestos register based on the level of risk.

Legal Responsibilities for Commercial Property Owners

Asbestos carries significant legal responsibilities within commercial property management. Part 4.4 of the OHS Regulations firmly lays the responsibility on the shoulders of commercial property owners, employers, and self-employed individuals to identify and regulate the exposure to airborne asbestos fibres in workplaces.

The task of managing the risk associated with the presence of asbestos is akin to walking a tightrope, balancing the need for safety with practical constraints. The law mandates that one should manage asbestos by removing, enclosing, or sealing the material as far as is reasonably practicable.

Implementing control measures does not conclude the process of managing asbestos. Like the ticking hands of a clock, regulations dictate a constant cycle of review and revision. This ensures that the measures put in place remain effective in controlling the associated risks.

Asbestos Management Plans for Businesses

A well-devised plan is essential in navigating the complexities of regulations and safety measures in asbestos management. An asbestos management plan is not developed overnight. It involves:

  • Conducting an asbestos survey
  • Creating an asbestos register
  • Evaluating the risk
  • Establishing control measures
  • Implementing an ongoing monitoring program.

An asbestos management plan consists of four main components:

  1. Identifying who is responsible for managing asbestos
  2. Creating an asbestos register
  3. Developing a strategy for work involving asbestos-containing materials
  4. Implementing a plan for regular inspections, operation, and maintenance of asbestos-containing materials.

The role of an asbestos coordinator in a business setting is akin to a ship’s captain, steering the vessel of safety through the choppy waters of asbestos management. They ensure the safe management and removal of assumed asbestos materials, backed by legal mandates and industry standards. At least every five years, regular updates to the plan are a crucial element of this journey, ensuring the ship stays on course.

Safe Removal Practices for Asbestos-Contaminated Dust and Materials

Removing asbestos may seem challenging, but it can be safely carried out with the appropriate equipment and knowledge. The licensing of asbestos removalists is paramount in this journey. Unlicensed removal of limited amounts of asbestos is allowed under stringent conditions, such as removing non-friable ACM that does not exceed 10 square metres and does not take more than 1 hour within seven days.

The risk of asbestos is not in its solid state but in the unseen airborne fibres, it can emit. Thus, managing the risk of exposure to these airborne fibres is paramount. The model Code of Practice: How to safely remove asbestos is our guiding light, providing detailed instructions for safe removal practices.

The OHS Regulations impose strict requirements on duty holders about asbestos removal work and act as a protective measure. These regulations ensure that all asbestos removal work is conducted under controlled conditions to mitigate the risk of exposure to airborne asbestos fibres.

Protecting Workers from Asbestos Exposure

Protecting workers from asbestos exposure is a task of monumental importance. The potential health hazards of asbestos exposure are akin to a stealthy predator, with the ability to cause significant health issues such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. Employers carry a heavy burden in this regard. They must recognize asbestos-related tasks, implement measures to manage the associated risks and engage in discussions with employees potentially affected by health and safety issues.

Educational resources like asbestos safety videos can empower workers with knowledge about asbestos safety. These resources guide the proper utilisation of protective gear, serving as a shield against inhaling asbestos fibres.

Non-Friable and Friable Asbestos: Handling and Risks

Asbestos exists in two forms: friable and non-friable, much like a chameleon’s ability to change. Friable asbestos can be easily crumbled, posing a heightened risk of releasing asbestos fibres into the air. Non-friable asbestos, on the other hand, is firmly bound with another material, posing a lower risk of fibre release as long as it remains intact and undisturbed.

Non-friable asbestos, an asbestos-containing material, often hides in plain sight, disguised as everyday asbestos material in building materials. An example is asbestos cement sheeting, a commonly used material in the construction industry. Proper disposal of asbestos waste is crucial to prevent environmental contamination and health hazards.

The risk of inhaling airborne asbestos fibres is akin to a ticking time bomb, leading to serious health complications such as:

  • Asbestosis
  • Mesothelioma
  • Lung cancer
  • Other respiratory ailments

Thus, understanding the nature of friable and non-friable asbestos is crucial for effective asbestos management.

Emergency Response to Asbestos Incidents

A quick and efficient response is required when asbestos incidents occur. The immediate steps weaved into this emergency response dance include:

  • Ceasing work
  • Evacuating the affected area
  • Isolating the contaminated zone
  • Notifying a supervisor or relevant authority

In cases of suspected asbestos exposure, immediate medical assistance should be sought, and a licensed asbestos removalist must be informed.

An immediate response is necessary when asbestos is unexpectedly found during work. Work should cease, the area should be isolated, and a licensed asbestos removal contractor should be engaged for assessment and plan development.

The alarm must be sounded to the right people in an asbestos-related emergency. A licensed asbestos removalist should be promptly informed by telephone and in writing within 24 hours.

Planning Renovations or Demolitions in Asbestos-Containing Buildings

Like an uninvited guest, asbestos can turn a seemingly straightforward renovation or demolition into a complex situation. The importance of conducting asbestos surveys before renovations or demolitions is paramount. These surveys offer comprehensive details about the presence and condition of asbestos materials, paving the way for safety protocols during the renovation or demolition procedures.

Safety measures and protocols during the renovation include:

  • Conducting a comprehensive asbestos survey
  • Engaging licensed contractors for asbestos removal
  • Maintaining work area containment
  • Supplying workers with personal protective equipment
  • Adhering to strict asbestos disposal procedures
  • Monitoring air quality.

The legal responsibilities during demolition are like a gavel, enforcing safety laws in the face of potential danger. Regulations require the removal of asbestos, where reasonably feasible, before demolition work begins. Adherence to occupational health and safety protocols, following pertinent laws, compliance codes, and guidance documents, is crucial.

Case Studies: Managing Asbestos in Commercial Settings

Case studies reflect the practical implementation of asbestos management in commercial properties. They encompass:

  • Significant asbestos removal projects demonstrating best practices
  • Annual report highlights showcasing successful asbestos management initiatives
  • Specific instances of asbestos management in historic commercial buildings.

Practical strategies for managing asbestos in commercial environments include:

  • Complete removal of asbestos to eliminate risk
  • Reduction of risk through thorough surveys
  • Development of management plans
  • Proper training
  • Regular monitoring when complete removal is not feasible

These strategies are crucial to ensuring safety and compliance.

Managing asbestos contamination in commercial properties can be akin to traversing a minefield of potential challenges. These include:

  • Ensuring adherence to regulations
  • Accurately identifying and evaluating asbestos presence
  • Comprehensive risk assessment and management
  • Safe removal and appropriate disposal
  • Effective communication and education regarding the hazards


Navigating the labyrinth of asbestos management in commercial properties is a monumental task. But with knowledge of identification procedures, an understanding of legal responsibilities, a well-crafted asbestos management plan, safe removal practices, protective measures for workers, a sense of the different forms of asbestos, emergency response procedures, careful planning for renovations or demolitions, and learning from real-world case studies, the journey becomes less daunting. Remember, the key to successful asbestos management is a proactive approach, constant vigilance, and adherence to regulations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is asbestos found in industrial buildings?

Asbestos can be commonly found in industrial buildings in roofing, guttering, ridge capping and imitation brick cladding, and lining under the eaves and around water pipes, water heaters and electrical boards in plant rooms.

What type of asbestos is most commonly used in buildings?

Chrysotile, or white asbestos, is the most common type found in buildings, accounting for roughly 95% of all asbestos used. It is commonly used in ceiling sealants, roofing materials, plaster walls, gaskets, and certain cement flooring.

What to do if asbestos is found in the workplace?

If asbestos is found in the workplace, it is important to label the location and keep an asbestos register clearly. Asbestos removal should only be done by a licensed removalist with appropriate training. Taking these steps can help manage the risk of breathing in asbestos fibres, which can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

What is the significance of an Asbestos Register?

An Asbestos Register provides a formal record of all asbestos present in a building, confirmed and assumed, enabling the proper management and protection against potential exposure risks.

What are the legal responsibilities of commercial property owners in relation to asbestos management?

Commercial property owners are responsible for identifying and regulating airborne asbestos fibres in workplaces, as specified by Part 4.4 of the OHS Regulations.

Tommy Clappers

Tommy Clappers

Tommy Clappers is the Owner and Founder of Asbestos Australia Removalist specialising as a Class A & B Licensed Company with highly trained ticketed staff with over 25+ years in the industry in Friable & Non-Friable Commercial, Industrial & Domestic. He's well-skilled in all types of Asbestos Removal and Hazardous Materials. He's an expert in Encapsulation, Soil Remediation and Industrial Cleaning. He prides himself on creating safer environments for his team and his client's safety and ensuring every removal is safe and clean. He currently resides in Melbourne, Australia.

Posted By: Tommy Clappers

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