More than 3000 products in NZ contain asbestos. Because it was robust, an excellent fire retardant, and cheap, it was commonly used in big commercial builds like schools, hospitals, universities, and industrial complexes.
If your premises has asbestos in any form, you have legal asbestos requirements to meet around identification and hazard management. There are big ramifications if you don’t meet these legislative requirements.
The legal commercial requirements in NZ for asbestos management
There are a number of requirements that businesses and organisations must meet. The Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016 act comes into play when asbestos or a product containing asbestos is found on site or is likely to be present.
As a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), it is your job to ensure the working environment has no airborne asbestos fibres. The organisation needs to develop and maintain an asbestos management plan. This plan:
- Identify or assume the location of the asbestos
- Assessment of the likelihood of harm from the asbestos
- Any harm management strategies required and control measures
- How workers, tenants, staff and visitors could be exposed to asbestos
- Must be accessible to all workers
- Must be reviewed every five years or,
- Must be renewed if new asbestos is found or the current situation changes.
The Worksafe website has a template for asbestos management plan which helps you to remain compliant with the law.
Where could asbestos be in the building?
There are more than 3000 known building products in NZ that contain asbestos. These items can be inside or external to the building, and include:
- Roofing, guttering and sidings
- Exterior cladding
- Internal fibreboard
- Ceiling tiles
- Ceiling stippling
- Insulating boards
- Pipe lagging
- Sprayed insulation
- Brake linings
- Fire doors
- Fuse boxes
- Gas/ electric heaters
It was primarily used as a fire retardant and insulation and can be found in a massive number of places in almost every building constructed before 1990.
What happens if you don’t meet the legal obligations for asbestos management?
This is no polite slap-on-the-wrist punishment if you get it wrong or you fail to comply with legal obligations. Due to the hazardous and cancerous nature of asbestos, everyone who enters your building or spends time in the premises could be at risk if you do not adequately protect them. The punishment reflects the severity of the potential harm.
There are significant fines of up to NZ$3 million that can be placed on businesses or individuals. A small fine would be considered to be around NZ$50,000 – this is a serious business. Individuals can also be jailed for up to five years for non-compliance.
You definitely don’t want to get this wrong.
I need to carry out repairs, maintenance or a new fit-out. How?
If you have identified that a workplace has asbestos and has outlined that in your asbestos management plan, there are certain steps to take if you wish to carry out repairs, maintenance or refurbishment.
The first step is to contact us. We can take a look at what needs doing and quote for the asbestos removal, or if encapsulation might be the best option. Part of your obligations include having the asbestos removed safely and without risk of harm to people in the building. This requires hiring licenced asbestos assessors to carry out the work. Asbestos has strict requirements around sampling, identifying, removing, transporting and disposal. There are even guidelines for laundering clothes after asbestos contact.
As a result, the work must be carried out by trained professionals with a class A removal licence. TechClean are licensed and skilled in asbestos removal, so the items are removed legally, with no air contamination, all product removed with no residue left, and all waste material disposed of safely.
If you are in Wellington, Canterbury, Nelson or Marlborough, give us a call on 0800 456 113. We can manage the process from start to finish, keeping you compliant with health and safety rules, ensuring all building occupants are safe from harm, and that you won’t be liable for non-compliance punishment.