How La Trobe manages asbestos
La Trobe University is committed to the health and safety of its staff and students, and has recently undertaken an exhaustive process of asbestos identification within all its properties and recently updated the asbestos database and Asbestos Management Plan. The objective of this Plan is to ensure that La Trobe manages its asbestos risks and legislative obligations, including:
- Identifying and assessing the risks of asbestos in workplaces
- Implementing site specific measures and procedures to control risks, specifically the installation of labelling and informing contractors through inductions
- Reviewing risk assessments prior to Infrastructure and Operations Group related activities such as demolition and refurbishment
- Engaging licensed contractors and consultants to carry out removal works, monitoring and supervision.
As part of the Asbestos Management Plan and the relevant Victorian legislation the University is required to clearly identify and label locations where this material is present. We are in the process of undertaking a signage program to inform the University community of the presence of asbestos in some areas. Staff and students may soon notice a number of signs around the University informing contractors to check the asbestos register before undertaking any construction or renovation work. This is routine signage as required by Victorian OHS regulations. Similar programs have already been undertaken in other institutions and public areas.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally
forming mineral silicate found in rocks from which it was mined for use
in various building products, primarily for its strength and durability
against fire and chemical damage.
Three types of asbestos were commonly used in building products in Australia: Chrysotile (white) asbestos, Amosite (Brown) asbestos, and Crocidolite (blue) asbestos).
Asbestos was commonly used in a wide variety of building products:
- Fibro cement products: cement sheet walls and ceilings, roofs, guttering and pipes
- Vinyl and sheet vinyl floor coverings
- Switchboard panels and insulating linings
- Gaskets, brake pads and friction materials
- As an insulating material to boilers and pipe work in the form of lagging or as a sprayed fire resisting materials to structural building beams (limpet).
In Australia, asbestos was used widely in the construction of houses and commercial and industrial properties from the 1930s onwards with the peak period of use in Australian buildings being from the 1950s to the 1970s. Asbestos was gradually phased out in Australia in certain products from the late 1970s through to the late 1980s. The final national ban on the use, manufacture and importation of all asbestos products in Australia occurred in 2003 (gaskets and friction materials).
Asbestos health risks
It is widely known that exposure to airborne asbestos fibres can be hazardous to human health. Airborne asbestos fibres can become trapped in a person's lungs where they do not breakdown and are unable to be expelled by the body.
The chance of contracting an asbestos related disease is directly linked to the volume and duration of the potential for inhalation of airborne asbestos fibres that a person has been exposed to. A high concentration of fibres plus long duration of exposure equals greater risk of contracting an asbestos-related disease. This theory is known as Threshold Theory and is the most widely supported theory based on the occurrence of asbestos related disease within the community. That is, people who mined asbestos, manufactured asbestos products or worked in an industry which worked on asbestos products are those most likely to contract an asbestos-related disease.
The One Fibre Theory is the common misconception that exposure to a single asbestos fibre leads to asbestos-related disease. This theory is not supported by evidence of asbestos-related disease within the community as we are continually exposed to asbestos fibres in the atmosphere. For example, asbestos occurs naturally in the environment through soil and rock erosions, and asbestos fibres are present throughout the atmosphere due to vehicle brake pads and acres of asbestos cement roofs throughout most industrialised cities.
If you have any concerns or need more information, please contact La Trobe Health and Safety at:
T: 03 9479 2462