News & Thinking
Helping to make asbestos management easier
Asbestos related issues are an ongoing problem for businesses in New Zealand.
To help make compliance easier, WorkSafe New Zealand has recently launched a tool to help businesses develop their Asbestos Management Plans. All businesses need to consider if they need an asbestos management plan and, if so, what they need to do to ensure compliance.
The Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016 (the Regulations) require workplaces where asbestos or asbestos-containing material is identified, or is likely to be present, to create and maintain an up-to-date written Asbestos Management Plan (AMP).
What is an asbestos management plan?
In a nutshell, an AMP records the locations of any identified asbestos (or the locations where asbestos is likely to be present) at a workplace and sets out how that asbestos is to be managed, and how risks arising from it can be minimised for those who may come into contact with it.
The Regulations require AMPs to include information about:
- where the asbestos is located
- how it will be managed, and reasons for this (for example, whether it will it be removed and how)
- training and information given to workers
- any health monitoring of workers that has been or will be undertaken
- procedures for detailing incidents or emergencies involving asbestos.
The AMP must be reviewed at least every five years and more regularly if asbestos has been removed from, disturbed, sealed, or enclosed at the workplace.
Once an AMP is prepared it must be kept at the workplace and be easily accessible to workers, and any other people (such as customers or other visitors to the workplace) who may be put at risk of exposure to asbestos.
WorkSafe has launched a new tool to help businesses develop their AMPs. The tool is a Word document template designed to act as a guide for preparing an AMP. Photos, site plans, and other documents which may be relevant can be added as needed. The tool also includes hyperlinks to other useful asbestos related information. It is designed to be user-friendly, and ensure that comprehensive AMPs are produced and comply with the Regulations. We commend WorkSafe for developing this, as it is helpful for any business that needs to create, review, or update an AMP.
A copy of the template can be downloaded at: https://worksafe.govt.nz/topic-and-industry/asbestos/asbestos-management-plans/
The cost of non-compliance
In 2016 WorkSafe identified asbestos exposure as the leading cause of workplace-related disease causing death in New Zealand, with an estimated 220 people dying from asbestos-related disease each year. WorkSafe has set a goal of reducing asbestos-related disease by 50% by 2040.
WorkSafe is not sympathetic to businesses who do not properly manage asbestos risks, and instead takes a hard line with businesses who fail to comply with the Regulations.
A recent asbestos related prosecution is a good example of this.
In February 2020 the Nelson District Court fined Bays Boating Limited (BBL) $108,000 in a prosecution arising from the unsafe removal of asbestos. BBL demolished a building which was known to have asbestos in both its roof and walls, without safely removing or dealing with the asbestos first. The lack of an AMP, and the failure to engage a competent licensed person to remove asbestos containing material before demolition began, were serious failings
WorkSafe’s Principal Advisor for Asbestos, Robert Birse, commented that BBL’s actions were unacceptable, as the dangers of asbestos are well known.
Interestingly, BBL was not prosecuted for a specific breach of the Regulations, but instead under sections 36(1)(a), 49(1) and 49(2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 for failing to comply with its duty to ensure the health and safety of workers. This was likely because this offence carries a maximum fine of $500,000 for a business, higher than would have been ordered under the Regulations.
This prosecution highlights the importance of taking asbestos seriously and complying with both the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Regulations when seeking to manage asbestos related risks.
If you have any concerns about how to manage asbestos in your business, or want advice on drafting or reviewing an AMP, our team of health and safety experts are happy to assist.