Asbestos regulation critical

UnionsWA has commented on the release today of a report by the WA Auditor General critical of the licencing for asbestos removal and handling by WorkSafe WA.

Owen Whittle, Assistant Secretary UnionsWA said:

“There are so many levels of wrong in this.

“Working West Australians and the public rely on a strong cop on the beat to ensure the safe removal and handling of asbestos.

“This report highlights staggering deficiencies in how we regulate and licence asbestos removal in this state and should lead to substantial reform.

“The history of asbestos mining in WA has left our state with an enormous legacy of buildings containing this lethal substance.

“The danger from asbestos is greatest in its removal and handling which risks the creation of harmful asbestos dust.

“There is no safe levels of asbestos exposure and every step needs to be taken to ensure that the health of West Australians is protected.

 The Auditor General in their report has pointed to significant problems with Worksafe’s compliance and regulatory activities including:

  • “There are significant gaps in WorkSafe’s processes and practices which limit how effectively it regulates asbestos removal licensing in Western Australia”;
  • “Regulatory actions are not risk-based, documentation is weak, and there is a lack of rigour and transparency in licensing approval controls…there are significant deficiencies in WorkSafe’s overall monitoring and compliance activities” [and that];
  • “WorkSafe does inspect worksites when it receives notifications about friable asbestos removal work...WorkSafe is also missing important opportunities to use asbestos-related data from the community and other government entities, including a large volume of complaints received, to better target its compliance and awareness raising activities.”

“Regulations under work health and safety laws has to be matched by strong enforcement.

“Under the previous WA Government there were significant funding cuts made to WorkSafe and while there has been a welcome increase in funding in recent years it’s clear that more needs to be done to ensure WorkSafe can perform its basic functions.

“This report comes after the WA Coroner released a report on a workplace fatality highlighting significant problems with WorkSafe’s internal processes.

“While these reports may, in part, reflect past inadequacies, what is needed now is a clear commitment by WorkSafe and government to give the community confidence about the safe removal of asbestos.”

Further information

The WA Auditor General Report “Regulation of Asbestos Removal” is available online here.


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