Tradespeople will be warned to always check for asbestos before starting a job, in an awareness campaign that will hit airwaves next week.
The campaign aims to remind tradespeople, particularly those who may be self-employed and involved in home renovation or maintenance work, that many older houses have asbestos-containing material that can sometimes be difficult to recognise.
Inhaling asbestos can cause mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining around the lungs. The latest statistics from the Australian Mesothelioma Register reveal that an estimated 60 per cent of mesothelioma cases are due to asbestos exposure in the workplace.
There were at least 95 mesothelioma deaths in Victoria in 2016 and 145 new cases of the disease.
WorkSafe Acting Director of Health and Safety, Paul Fowler, said although many tradespeople knew asbestos posed a significant health risk, many might not know how to identify it.
“If you’re a self-employed tradesperson conducting maintenance work at an old house, you need to know what to look for to identify any areas with potential asbestos-containing material before any work begins,” he said.
“If you’re an employer of tradespeople, you have a duty to make sure there is a system in place to identify, manage and where necessary, arrange for the safe removal of asbestos in the workplace.”
By law, anyone who manages or controls a Victorian workplace where asbestos material has been identified must keep an asbestos register. This makes it easier for workers to know if asbestos is present where they are working.
“Asbestos materials were commonly used in buildings before 1990 and are still contained in many structures today.
“Learning more about asbestos and how to identify it could be the difference between developing a severe illness or staying healthy.”
In addition to mesothelioma, asbestos has also been linked to lung cancer and asbestosis, which causes scarring of lungs, shortness of breath and coughing.
Tradespeople involved in the building and construction industry are most at risk, particularly those involved in home renovations, maintenance, refurbishment or demolition of buildings built before 1990.
Asbestos fibres can be released into the air when drilling, sawing, sanding or when demolition work breaks asbestos materials in walls and floors.
The campaign, which includes advertisements on radio, online and in trade publications, encourages tradespeople to make sure they can confidently identify the material.
To find out more about asbestos, including how to identify and manage it and who to call if you find it at your worksite, go to asbestos.vic.gov.au or worksafe.vic.gov.au.
Public enquiries: Call the WorkSafe Advisory Service on 1800 136 089 between 8:30am and 5pm Monday to Friday, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Advisory Service, PO Box 4306, Melbourne, 3001.