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A hidden killer may be lurking in your park!

Caravan parks in Australia are well known for providing travellers with quality holiday experiences, providing beautifully designed cabins, camping grounds and well-appointed amenities.

Many park owners would currently, or have plans in the future, to update, renovate or demolish old building structures so as to provide better facilities for their customers. The wide spread historical use of asbestos in building materials in Australia may present a number of challenges for park owners who have plans to renovate existing building structures.
Questions you should be asking yourself are:

  1. Do I have asbestos in my park?
  2. Is it currently safe and not a health risk?
  3. How do I tell if I have asbestos?
  4. How do I go about finding out if I have asbestos and how do I manage it effectively?
  5. How can it be removed safely?

Asbestos containing material was very widely used in the construction of buildings prior to 1990 and may still be prominent in building structures in current use in parks around Australia. This would be in most cases in the form of asbestos cement sheeting. It should be noted that it wasn’t until 31 December 2003 that asbestos and all products containing asbestos were banned throughout Australia.

Park owners should become aware of how to manage this very real risk effectively even if they don’t plan to renovate as ACM may deteriorate or become damaged and can then present as a health risk.

When deciding if there is a risk to health from asbestos, consider whether the asbestos
or ACM is:

  • in poor condition
  • likely to be further damaged or to deteriorate
  • likely to be disturbed due to work practices carried out in the workplace (for example,
  • routine and maintenance activities and their frequency)
  • in an area where workers are exposed to the material.

A visual inspection of the material, its location and an understanding of the work practices at the workplace will assist this decision.

Asbestos-related work activities (including maintenance) plus unusual and infrequent activities (such as emergency activities) need to be considered. Also take into account the

  • proximity of the asbestos or ACM to where employees work, as this can affect the potential for exposure if asbestos fibres become airborne.
  • The decision to remove ACM should be based on the application of an asbestos management plan which will have been developed in accordance with the Code of Practice for the Management and Control of Asbestos in the Workplace.
  • Safe Work Australia has a Code of Practice for the Management and Control of Asbestos in the workplace. Visit www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au to download or view the code of practice.

Among other things, you must ensure that a risk assessment is performed by a competent person prior to the asbestos removal and the asbestos removalists takes this risk assessment into account in developing the asbestos removal control plan. In some cases, especially when thermal or acoustic insulation is being removed, the full extent of the ACM is not always known until the removal is underway.

In these circumstances you should endeavour to identify the ACM as far as possible before asbestos removal commences, and if additional ACM is found a further risk assessment should be performed by a competent person.

Should you not know if a structure or material in your park contains asbestos, you can contact the National Association of Testing Authorities who can advise of an analytical laboratory in your area who is accredited to identify asbestos.

The NATA can be contacted on: 03 9329 1633.

Remember to play it safe and consult competent personnel if you are unsure of where or if asbestos is present in your park.

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