Work safety regulators are being given new powers to deal with prohibited asbestos when it is found in a workplace.

A total ban on asbestos came into effect in Australia on 31 December 2003 making it illegal to make, use or import asbestos in Australia. Despite this ban, asbestos that has been fixed or installed since 2003 is still being found in Australian workplaces.

New changes to the model WHS Act seek to provide greater certainty in the regulation of prohibited asbestos – any asbestos fixed or installed in a workplace after the prohibition on asbestos was introduced.

Under the changes, the WHS regulator must issue a ‘prohibited asbestos notice’ if they reasonably believe prohibited asbestos is present in a workplace. This is even if the asbestos is discovered long after any work involving it has been completed.

Safe Work Australia says that because the changes address an unintended gap in existing powers, a public consultation process was not undertaken.

Consultation was undertaken with Commonwealth, state and territory governments, employer and worker representatives, through Safe Work Australia’s usual processes.

For more information about these changes, Safe Work has provided an  Explanatory Memorandum.