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The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 places obligations and legal duties on persons who conduct a business or undertaking (PCBU), officers and workers to make sure workplaces are safe. The Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011, specifically Chapter 8—Asbestos, also apply where asbestos related work is carried out.

Comcare expects officers and workers of any company involved in removing asbestos from telecommunications pits to meet their obligations under federal law. As the federal work health and safety (WHS) regulator, Comcare will commence enforcement action where a breach of WHS obligations is identified. Failure to comply may attract criminal penalties.

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Comcare’s role in relation to asbestos

Comcare undertakes several roles in relation to asbestos and exposure to asbestos including:

Refer to asbestos-related claims for further information.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral that was widely used in building materials up to 1987. It is commonly found in materials such as:

  • roofing, shingles and siding
  • fencing
  • exterior wall cladding
  • backing material on floor tiles and vinyl flooring
  • textured paints
  • water or flue pipes
  • bathrooms
  • interior walls
  • eaves.

When such materials are left undisturbed they are relatively harmless. Asbestos becomes a hazard when microscopic fibre fragments become airborne and are inhaled.

Asbestos risks and diseases

People who become ill from asbestos are usually those who are exposed to airborne fibres on a regular basis, most often in a job where they work directly with the material or through substantial environmental contact. It is clear that the health risks from asbestos exposure increase with heavier exposure and longer exposure time. Despite this, asbestos-related diseases have been found in individuals with only brief exposures. Diseases may develop many years after exposure.

Asbestos is classified as a substance that causes cancer (known as a carcinogen). Exposure to asbestos may increase the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma. Although rare, mesothelioma is the most common form of cancer associated with asbestos exposure.

Page last updated: 17 Feb 2020