Hazardous Building Materials
Hazardous building materials include asbestos; PolyChlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), Synthetic Mineral Fibres (SMFs) and lead based paint. They are hazardous to the health of people. For example, the inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause respiratory diseases including asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Latency periods of up to 40 years are not uncommon for these diseases. For these reasons, hazardous building materials must be managed stringently. Ultimately, the goal should be to rid workplaces of hazardous building materials wherever possible. If this can’t be done, seek to control the risk by sealing, enclosing or encapsulating the material and regularly inspecting it to make sure it remains in good condition.
Where/when would these issues be relevant?
- Asbestos can be found in ceilings, vinyl floor tiles, electrical switch boards, walls and in the eaves of buildings. It may also be used in heat resistant mats/materials in science labs;
- Capacitors containing PCBs were used in fluorescent light fittings during the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's. Workers involved in servicing and dismantling electrical appliances, transformers and capacitors may be exposed to PCBs;
- SMFs have been widely used as alternatives to asbestos in insulation and fire-rated products and as reinforcement in cement, plaster and plastic material; and
- Lead based paint was used extensively in Australian buildings prior to 1970. Any maintenance work done on DEECD buildings that could disturb paint containing lead will present a safety issue to exposed contractors, employees and students.
If there are any changes to a workplace that are likely to disturb or damage any hazardous building materials then it will be necessary to review your risk controls to ensure no one is exposed to hazardous building materials. This is particularly relevant when contractors are hired to undertake tasks that could expose them or DEECD employees or students to hazardous building materials. Such contractors might include carpenters, electricians, plumbers and demolition workers.
What do you need to do?
- Consult with Health and Safety Representatives (HSR) and employees about this hazard;
- Arrange for a competent person to identify the presence of hazardous building materials in the workplace through a hazardous material audit and provide you with a formal report;
- If asbestos is present at you workplace appoint a person to act as School Asbestos Co-coordinator within the school and develop an Asbestos Management Plan (Word - 654Kb);
- Inform the OHS Advisory Service (1300 074 715) of the identification of hazardous building materials at the worksite. They will advise you in relation to its handling and removal;
- Ensure your Asbestos Management Plan is up to date as required by DEECD policy;
- Ensure that any contractors or others entering the workplace, who may be exposed to these materials are provided with the formal report outlined above to inform them of the presence and location of the hazardous materials;
- Ensure that contractors are shown part 5 of the Asbestos Management Plan;
- If reasonably practicable, indicate the presence of asbestos by labelling;
- Update the local OHS Risk Register after any works are carried out to control the materials;
- Only use certified contractors to carry out any hazardous building materials removal work; and
- Monitor the condition of the hazardous materials on a regular basis and be sure to update the local OHS Risk Register should there be a change in its condition.
Legislation, guidelines and codes of practice
Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007
National Standard and Code of Practice 1990 - Synthetic Mineral Fibre
Code of Practice for the Management and Control of Asbestos in Workplaces (NOHSC: 2018 (2005))
Asbestos – A handbook for workplaces
School Infrastructure Online
Hazardous Building Materials Procedure (PDF - 144Kb)
Asbestos Management Plan (Word - 654Kb)
OHS Advisory Line 1300 074 715
DEECD Regional OHS/WorkSafe Advisors