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What you need to know about naturally occurring asbestos

Asbestos is naturally occurring – so what do we need to know about to keep safe?

Asbestos can be found all over Australia, generally in rock, soil or sediment.  It comes in white (chrysotile), brown (actinolite, amosite), blue (anthophyllite, crocidolite) and tremolite.  When it is found, it is usually part of an excavation site.

If naturally occurring asbestos is located during works, an assessment needs to be made and a management plan put in place. No license is required to remove or handle naturally occurring asbestos but SafeWork NSW recommends that all workers on site are trained in the management, handling and risks associated with asbestos.  It is also recommended that all exposure to the asbestos is minimised and if possible, have it removed completely.

SafeWork NSW also recommends the following guidelines:

  • “isolating the workplace, or part of the workplace where naturally occurring asbestos has been identified or assumed until controls are in place
  • redirecting excavation away from the naturally occurring asbestos, if possible
  • using sealed excavation or mining equipment – eg air-conditioned cabins with filtered air (HEPA Filter)
  • ensuring a competent person maintains regular surveillance of the naturally occurring asbestos to ensure minimal disturbance
  • conducting air monitoring while working in the naturally occurring asbestos area
  • developing procedures for the safe disposal of asbestos waste
  • educating workers in safe work practices including decontamination and wash down procedures for vehicles leaving the naturally occurring asbestos area.”

The risks of asbestos are real, and education and planning is the best way to help reduce risk to your team.  More information can be found at The Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities (HACA) website.


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