Homeowners ignore requirement for asbestos management plans

Homeowners ignore requirement for asbestos management plans

The owners of almost half the ACT homes required to have an asbestos contamination management plan are ignoring their legal obligations.

Homeowners who continue to live in properties affected by Mr Fluffy loose-fill asbestos are required under the Dangerous Substances Act to have a management plan in place to minimise the future risk of exposure to themselves, other occupants or visitors to the property.

WorkSafe ACT, which is responsible for enforcing compliance with asbestos management plans, says 77 residential properties remain affected by loose-fill asbestos, with 48 of them required to have a management plan.

A WorkSafe ACT spokesperson said 21 of those 48 properties were non-compliant, with four partially compliant and 23 fully compliant.

The regulator will not reveal the addresses of the non-compliant homes, despite there being a public register listing the 1023 properties found to have been contaminated by Mr Fluffy asbestos.


"There is a public register of loose-fill asbestos properties, including those that remain affected," the spokesperson said.

"While privacy requirements prevent the publication of non-compliant households, visitors including trade persons can check the public register for loose-fill asbestos properties and at the property can check for relevant signage or ask for a copy of the [asbestos management plan]."

The register available to the public lists all 1023 properties and does not distinguish between the 77 still affected by Mr Fluffy asbestos and the 946 that have been removed from the Asbestos Response Taskforce's affected residential premises register after demolition and soil testing.

The affected residential premises register, which lists the 77 properties still affected, is not a public document.

While the WorkSafe ACT spokesperson said the regulator took compliance with asbestos contamination management plans "very seriously", there are no clear consequences for homeowners who fail to have such a plan prepared by a licensed asbestos assessor.

The spokesperson said the obligation to inform visitors to asbestos-affected properties of the contamination rested with homeowners, but WorkSafe ACT would continue to monitor compliance.

"Should the homeowners not co-operate with their legislative requirements, the regulator will consider taking further action," the spokesperson said.

"This will be on a case-by-case basis."

Residents who decided to continue living in Mr Fluffy homes and not to take part in the ACT government's buyback scheme were required to have asbestos management plans in place by February 2016.

The plans last two years and require homeowners to pay for asbestos assessments when the plan is renewed, and to arrange for any recommended remidiation works to be carried out within six months of the assessment.

Homeowners subject to an asbestos management plan must also take defined steps to inform visitors of the contamination, including labelling on the property's metre box and on the locked manhole.

However, non-compliant or partially compliant properties may not have any visible signs in place alerting visitors to the contamination.

Figures released under freedom of information laws show that, as of October 25 last year, 19 residential properties required to have an asbestos management plan were non-compliant.

The WorkSafe ACT spokesperson said that number had since risen to 21 properties as a result of two-year asbestos management plans expiring and not being renewed.

WorkSafe ACT commissioner Greg Jones has written to non-compliant homeowners at least twice to remind them of their legal obligations.

Blake Foden is a reporter at the Sunday Canberra Times. He has worked as a journalist in Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

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