26 Feb Play it safe with asbestos!
Play it safe with asbestos!
Asbestos is a term for a group of six naturally occurring mineral fibres. In the past, it was considered one of the most versatile minerals because of its properties of flexibility, strength, insulation from heat and electricity, chemical inertness and affordability. These same properties resulted in its extensive use over many years in Australia and it was commonly used in many industries including construction, shipbuilding, commercial product manufacturing and in power plants.
Unfortunately, the same properties that make it a ‘wonder’ building resource also make it extremely dangerous when inhaled because the microscopic fibres can lodge in the lungs of handlers and are unable to be expelled.
Asbestos is perhaps best-known today for its role in causing mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer that can develop in the linings of the lungs, abdomen or heart.
Identifying the presence of asbestos
Paul Keating, managing director of Strata Community Insurance notes: “It can be difficult to identify the presence of asbestos by sight as it is a component of thousands of different products and building materials used in the community and industry since 1865.”
As a general rule, if a property was built:
- before the mid-1980s or between the mid-1980s and 1990, it is highly likely that it would have some materials containing asbestos;
- after 1990, it is unlikely that it would have materials containing asbestos.
The only way to check for asbestos is to have a sample of the material analysed by an accredited laboratory.
Where is asbestos commonly found?
As asbestos was used extensively for fibro sheeting (flat and profiled), guttering and downpipes, as well as pipes for water, drainage or flues, lagging, corrugated roofing sheets and roofing shingles, many strata complexes built up to 2003 contain asbestos products. The manufacture and use of asbestos products in residential construction was phased out in Australia, commencing in 1985, and was extended to cover all asbestos materials from 31 December 2003. The ban now applies to the importation, manufacture, supply, storage, sale, use, reuse, installation and replacement of asbestos.
Tips to manage asbestos risks
In addition to managing risks and expenses, there are a range of actions to safely manage exposure to asbestos:
• Be vigilant, identify materials that may contain asbestos before contracting tradespeople to undertake work.
• If in doubt, arrange for testing of materials before work commences or, otherwise, treat materials as if they contain asbestos.
• Liaise with tradespeople to ensure they undertake work safely and in compliance with health and safety legislation.
• Ensure the removal of asbestos is only carried out under the authority of a suitably qualified and licensed asbestos removalist.
• Consult strata committees, lot owners, tenants and, if relevant, neighbours on planned work and any precautions required before the work commences.
• Leave undamaged asbestos material intact and undisturbed.
Insurance and asbestos
In Australia today, it is challenging to find strata insurance that includes cover for asbestos-related claims, whether for personal injury or property damage.
The relationship between asbestos and insurance is a complicated one.
The first thing you can do to protect yourself is to make sure that you’re complying with your legal obligations around asbestos. That means that if your premises were built before 1 December 2003, you need an asbestos survey to determine whether they contain any asbestos.
Secondly, if asbestos is found, you need to create an asbestos register and management plan. For ease, Strata Community Insurance can provide a working template as part of the resources in our Strata Manager Toolkit. Please contact your local office for a copy.
Finally, speak to an insurer such as Strata Community Insurance that will cover for asbestos. Our policies cover asbestos within the building on both residential and commercial buildings where asbestos is undamaged and well maintained. In incidences where asbestos has been tampered with, we would ask for a risk report and advise insured to keep us updated of any changes.
This information is general in nature only and does not constitute financial product advice or legal advice. References to policy terms and conditions are by way of summary only. For full details of policy terms, conditions, benefits and exclusions please refer to the relevant Product Disclosure Statement and Policy Wording, available from Strata Community Insurance.
This information was provided by Strata Community Insurance