A new national plan for asbestos safety and eradication has been released to help the country tackle the substance’s “harmful legacy”. The National strategic plan for asbestos awareness and management 2019–2023 aims to help “prevent exposure to asbestos fibres in order to eliminate asbestos-related disease in Australia”, according to Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) CEO Justine Ross. It builds on the 2014 plan, which helped unite state, territory and federal governments in a coordinated effort against asbestos.
“4000 Australians die every year from asbestos-related disease. That’s twice the annual road toll. This plan will guide the work of all Australian governments in making sure that we are working to prevent asbestos exposure,” Ross said. “Unfortunately, despite being banned in 2003, asbestos exposure is still a risk for Australians. Our heavy past use — particularly as part of building materials used in homes and public buildings — means that legacy asbestos is an ongoing public health issue.”
The plan has four national priorities, including: improving “asbestos awareness to influence behavioural change”; “identification and effective legacy management”; “safe prioritised removal and effective waste management” and “international collaboration and leadership”. These will primarily be actioned by governments, but according to the plan, businesses, employer representatives and unions and worker representatives also have roles to play.
Here, businesses are tasked with continuing to manage risks associated with their work and ensuring the safety of workers and the public. This may be achieved with the help of employer representatives and specialist advisors and training organisations, according to the plan. Meanwhile, unions and worker representatives should continue to “advocate for and support workers’ health and safety”, the plan said. The plan’s success “depends on collective efforts and sustained action” from all members of the asbestos management system, it explained.
The plan can be found via the ASEA’s website.
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