Commercial property owners need to take action on asbestos

Commercial property owners need to take action on asbestos

Total Property - Issue 8 2017

On April 4th 2018, the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016 come fully into effect, and owners of buildings where there is asbestos and tenants who manage or control a workplace where there is asbestos will need an asbestos management plan.

Currently, building owners or occupiers who manage or control a workplace must ensure that asbestos is identified in the workplace.

This requirement means that if a building owner or occupier knows, or reasonably ought to know, that there is a risk of exposure to respirable asbestos fibres, they must, so far as is reasonably practicable, identify all asbestos that poses a risk of exposure, as well as Asbestos Containing Material (ACM), which is any material containing more than one percent asbestos.

In New Zealand, a significant proportion of buildings – commercial, industrial and residential – are likely to contain some form of asbestos, particularly those built, altered or refurbished between 1940 and the mid-1980s.

Buildings constructed after January 1st, 2000 are less likely to contain asbestos or ACM. However, a ban on the import of all products containing asbestos, including building products and materials, only came into force in October last year, so owners of buildings erected after January 1st, 2000 should not simply assume they are asbestos free.

In order to identify asbestos or ACM, businesses will need to conduct an asbestos survey of all buildings in their workplace. Where asbestos is identified, the building owner and occupier must keep a record of the location and condition of the asbestos, update their risk register, and clearly indicate the presence and location of asbestos or ACM.

From April 4th 2018, building owners or occupiers who manage or control a workplace, and who have identified the presence of asbestos or ACM in the workplace, must prepare and review an asbestos management plan.

An asbestos management plan is a written plan, which contains information about:

• The identification of asbestos or ACM;

• Decisions (including reasons for those decisions) on how the risk caused by the asbestos is managed; and

• Procedures for detailing incidents or emergencies involving asbestos or ACM at the workplace.

A building owner or occupier must ensure that the asbestos management plan is kept up-to-date and a copy is readily accessible to any worker who has carried out, carries out, or intends to carry out work at the workplace or any business that intends to carry out work at the workplace.

Additionally, after April 4th, 2018, businesses that have an asbestos management plan must review and revise the plan (if necessary) in certain circumstances. For instance, where asbestos is removed from or disturbed at the workplace, or if five years have passed since the plan was last reviewed.

The regulations also require businesses that manage or control a workplace to ensure that a person's exposure to airborne asbestos is eliminated so far as is reasonably practicable, or minimised where it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk.

After April 4th, 2018, a business that commissions “Class A” asbestos removal work (removal of easily crumbled asbestos), is required to ensure that an independent licensed asbestos assessor undertakes air monitoring of the asbestos removal area.

Until then, a “competent person” may carry out “Class A” air monitoring.

Further guidance on how to identify and control the work health and safety risks caused by asbestos can be found on the WorkSafe New Zealand website (www.worksafe.govt.nz).


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