THE State Government will continue to require air-quality monitoring for asbestos removals for another year.
Industrial Relations Minister Russell Wortley has bowed to industry lobbying, saying the existing rules that require air monitoring during and after the removal of bonded asbestos would remain for a “transitional period of 12 months”.
During that time South Australia would lobby for the inclusion of mandatory air monitoring of “Class B removals” in the national occupational health and safety regulations, which are being harmonised.
“After listening to industry and stakeholder concerns, the Government has agreed to retain existing provisions for air monitoring for the removal of non-friable asbestos,” Mr Wortley said.
Non-friable asbestos is usually bonded into a solid material and cannot be crushed by hand when dry.
Members of the asbestos removal industry have lobbied hard for the changes through the SA Asbestos Steering Committee.
Last week an occupational hygienist told The Advertiser that dropping mandatory air monitoring during and after the removal of bonded asbestos would expose workers at the “coal face” to an unnecessary risk of contracting a deadly disease.
Steering committee chairman Andrew Butler said the “12-month moratorium to maintain air monitoring as a must activity is a significant improvement”.
“Airborne fibre monitoring provides scientific evidence that it is safe to return to an area following the completion of asbestos removal work,” Mr Butler said.
But Mr Butler said the absence of any move to maintain annual asbestos inspections – as per the current South Australian regulations – for commercial properties was a concern.
Speaking at the launch of the inaugural Asbestos Awareness Week yesterday, Mr Wortley said asbestos-related diseases killed hundreds of Australians each year and thousands more were presenting with the symptoms.
The process of harmonising national Work Health and Safety laws had provided the Government with an opportunity to refine and improve measures to manage and control exposure to asbestos, he said.
The Asbestos Diseases Research Institute launched a asbestos awareness website yesterday, asbestosawareness. com.au, which aims to educate people about the dangers of asbestos fibres.