Work Health Professionals provide onsite asbestos health monitoring in Perth. For groups of 10+ workers we can provide asbestos health monitoring at your workplace.
Asbestos health monitoring includes a medical examination to provide an initial baseline health assessment. As part of our service, we will also register the asbestos health monitoring results with WorkSafe WA.
Asbestos health assessment
Asbestos health assessments must include the following (unless another form of health monitoring is recommended by our Occupational Physician):
- consideration of the worker’s demographic, medical and occupational history
- consideration of records of the worker’s personal exposure
- a physical examination of the worker with emphasis on the respiratory system, including standardised respiratory function tests
When should asbestos health monitoring occur?
Examples of work where there is a risk of exposure include ongoing unlicensed removal work, undertaking maintenance work on asbestos containing materials (ACM) regularly as part of another job (for instance, electricians or building maintenance staff in older buildings) and carrying out asbestos-related work.
Where a worker is at risk of exposure to asbestos due to work other than licensed asbestos removal (ie: workers potentially exposed in an office damaged by fire or storm), asbestos health monitoring must also be undertaken.
The need for asbestos health monitoring for these workers should be determined on the basis of:
- the potential for exposure
- the frequency of potential exposure
- the duration of the work being undertaken
If a worker is carrying out licensed asbestos removal work, the health monitoring must be conducted prior to the worker commencing the work.
Asbestos health monitoring should also be provided to the worker at regular intervals after commencing the asbestos-related work but at least once every two years.
WorkSafe guidelines for asbestos
As stated by WorkSafe WA Regulation 5.43 of the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 requires that the employer, main contractor, self employed person or person in control of the workplace identifies the presence and location of asbestos at the workplace, and assesses the health risks. This identification and assessment is to be in accordance with the Code of Practice for Management and Control of Asbestos in Workplaces [NOHSC: 2018(2005)].
This information will be recorded on the asbestos register. If the ACM presents a health risk, the employer or person in control of the workplace has a duty of care under Section 19 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 to implement controls.
The asbestos register is used to communicate the hazard before work is done on the asbestos containing material. A safe system of work must be used for tasks that may disturb the asbestos containing material (eg cleaning, painting or other maintenance).
Health risks from asbestos exposure
In its raw form, asbestos is well known to cause health effects in humans. Exposure to asbestos fibres can cause the following diseases:
- Pleural Plaque
- Lung Cancer
The risk of developing an asbestos-related disease depends on the total number of fibres inhaled. To date, the majority of people who have developed asbestos related diseases have been exposed to relatively large numbers of fibres, as a result of contact with the material in their occupation.
Generally, undisturbed asbestos cement products do not pose a health risk, as the fibres are bound together in a solid cement matrix.
Many other asbestos products, such as floor tiles, also have a strong bonding matrix. It is normally only when asbestos products are highly weathered or damaged that they may present an exposure risk.
Diseases associated with asbestos exposure
- What is mesothelioma?
- SafeWork Australia’s report on incidence of mesothelioma
- Understanding pleural mesothelioma
- The Mesothelioma Center
- Malignant Mesothelioma
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral containing strong fibres that have excellent durability, fire resistance and insulating properties. Asbestos is a known carcinogen (can cause cancer) but only poses a health risk if fibres small enough to be breathed into our lungs, become airborne and are inhaled.
Where is asbestos found?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring material that was widely used in building materials up to 1987. It is commonly found in materials such as:
- Roofing, shingles and siding
- Exterior wall cladding
- Backing material on floor tiles and vinyl flooring
- Textured paints and
- Water or flue pipes
In the workplace it can also be found in:
- Asbestos cement products such as building materials (‘fibro’), fences, switchboards and roofing
- Sprayed on insulation and acoustic application
- Buildings, ships and other structures
- Vinyl asbestos tiles
- Laboratory tabletops
- Heater banks (air-conditioning ducts)
- Roofing felts
- Suspended ceiling tiles
- Friction materials (brake pads, shoes, etc)
- Industrial gaskets
- Naturally occurring ores/soils
- Fire doors and other fire resistant materials
- A variety of other building materials and plant components
Refer to the Code of Practice for the Management and Control of Asbestos in Workplaces [NOHSC: 2018(2005)] for a comprehensive list.
It is often very difficult to identify the presence of asbestos by sight. While asbestos is now banned from use, it was a component of thousands of different products and building materials used in the community and industry from the 1940’s until the late 1980’s. Houses and workplaces built before 1990 are likely to contain asbestos. However, you can not tell if materials contain asbestos just by looking at them, so you should assume that it is asbestos and treat it as such. Although asbestos can have dangerous health effects, it is safe if handled correctly.
Useful links for asbestos risk management in WA
Tips to manage asbestos exposure risks
Safe work methods
There are a range of things you can do to safely manage exposure to asbestos:
- Always identify materials that might contain asbestos before contracting tradespeople to undertake work.
- If in doubt, always arrange for testing of materials before work starts.
- Always liaise with tradespeople to ensure they undertake work safely and in compliance with health and safety legislation.
- Always ensure the removal of more than 10m2 of non-friable (bonded) asbestos is only carried out under the authority of a Class B or Class A asbestos removal licence holder.
- Always consult tenants and if relevant, neighbours, about the work to be undertaken and any precautions required before the work begins.
- Always discuss with property owners and tradespeople alternatives to removing asbestos containing material (e.g. paint or sealing using an appropriate product, covering with a suitable non-asbestos product).
- Always leave undamaged asbestos material intact and undisturbed.
- Always ensure the removal of all loose friable asbestos containing materials is only undertaken by a class A asbestos removal licence holder.
Unsafe work methods that you should never use:
- Never use dry brooms or paint scrapers on uncoated asbestos materials.
- Never use power tools such as angle grinders, circular saws and electric sanders on asbestos containing materials.
- Never use high pressure water blasters on asbestos containing materials.
- Never use compressed air on asbestos containing materials e.g. domestic grade vacuum cleaners and leaf blowers.
- Check to see that tradespeople are doing the right thing when working with anything thought to contain asbestos