Asbestos remains rather prevalent within Australia's built environments despite the known health risks associated with asbestos fibres. This is because Australia's construction sector widely used asbestos-containing materials (ACM) in the time following the Second World War.
Therefore, if you're looking to develop property on a site located within a brownfield (abandoned or unused sites that formerly had heavy industrial activity), it will be wise to ensure that previous occupants did not leave any asbestos from illegally buried waste products and poor removal procedures during demolitions among other historical practices. You can do this by following the practical steps outlined below:
1. Define asbestos risk
You will need to engage an expert asbestos soil surveyor as well as assess existing records to determine the likelihood of soil contamination. This critical step will highlight the work that needs to be done in management, helping you to plan in advance for the cost implications – time-loss costs from construction delays, costs of remediation efforts and licencing to allow contaminant handling, etc.
2. Develop management strategy
You may have to involve experts and stakeholders to come up with a satisfactory plan of action based on your findings above, and one that causes minimal disruption to your development plans. Formulate an overall plan for remedial work accounting for ACM characteristics, soil type and distribution, cost-benefit analysis, your proposed development plans, local regulations and impact on stakeholders.
3. Formulate plan of work
Having a thorough understanding of the site, you can formulate specific procedures to handle your asbestos risk. You must consider your licencing requirements, coordination of remedial work with other ongoing work on the site, site accessibility and layout, plans for personnel and site decontamination, air monitoring and control measures, and waste disposal risks.
4. Select a professional
Asbestos is a major health risk but only when its fibres are released into the air and breathed in. Therefore, there is high contamination risk during any work that disrupts asbestos, and such work must be overseen by a competent, qualified professional. You should investigate potential contractors' accreditation, standards and policies to determine competency. NATA provides this guide to help you assess their proposed plans and methods.
5. Validate your plan
Once your plans above have been signed off on by relevant stakeholders (contractors, local and government authorities, investors etc.), ensure that you can access all the validation records. You should also have an asbestos management plan for ACM left onsite. Onsite workers should be trained on the plan so that they can protect themselves and others. There should also be detailed reports on movement of ACM taken out, reuse and/or disposal records, and as-built drawings.