A recent incident during DRA activities is a timely reminder of the dangers of asbestos. The DRA team were conducting post-bushfire clean-up activities and chanced upon material suspected of containing asbestos in two areas adjacent to their worksites. This incident was notified to the relevant authority and it has since been confirmed that whilst there was asbestos in the vicinity of the worksite, no fibres were found in subsequent air monitoring making the possibility of exposure very low or negligible and well below Australian exposure standards.
DRA will not undertake tasks on sites that are known or suspected to be contaminated with asbestos until such time as the site has been tested, remediated, and declared safe. This may not prevent access to other worksites on the property.
There will be occasions when teams inadvertently discover items that may contain asbestos. A fire damaged asbestos building does not generate significant levels of asbestos fibres in the air unless it is disturbed. Although it is generally low risk to walk around or nearby asbestos damaged buildings, risks can increase when the material is disturbed.
In accordance with advice from Safework Australia and Codes of Practice endorsed by state and territory regulators, it is appropriate to remind all personnel of the following:
- The procedures contained in the Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS)Site Contaminants must be strictly followed. These include:- Stop work immediately
– Immediately report the incident to your manager
– Minimise disturbance of the material and area
– Inform workers to prevent access
– Establish a suitable exclusion zone
- A Safety 5 risk assessment must be conducted to identify and treat any remaining risks or determine that work should be suspended at that site.