On 10 November 2020, the Asbestos Abatement Regulations, issued in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993, was promulgated with compliance required on or before 31 May 2022. The legislation prescribes that a body corporate employing staff must have their workplace inspected, if those employees may have been exposed to asbestos containing materials.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that was mined and widely used in several different commercial and industrial settings, as well as in a wide range of consumer products, up and until 2008 when its use and further manufacturing was prohibited.
Due to the use and manufacturing of asbestos being prohibited after 2008, these Regulations do not apply to premises constructed after 1 March 2011.
Where can asbestos be found?
Asbestos’ high resistance to heat, chemicals, acid and electricity made it a highly desirable material that served a wide range of uses. It was primarily used for insulation and fireproofing applications, but has more than 3000 documented uses. Asbestos products included the following:
roof tiles and sheets;
gutters and downpipes;
facia boards, soffits and eaves;
wall coverings and underlay for tiles and carpets;
air conditioning ducts and fireplace flues;
vinyl and linoleum floor tiles, and
water tanks, cisterns and pipes.
What are the dangers of asbestos?
The World Health Organisation has advised that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. The risk is amplified as asbestos dust and fibres can remain airborne for many days. Due to its toxic nature, asbestos has been known to cause cancer, lung and heart disease. The recent death of former president De Klerk is attributed to mesothelioma, an asbestos related disease.
Any damage, deterioration or interference to asbestos materials can expose someone to the hazardous dust, which is why it is crucial that those required to come into compliance with these Regulations do so as soon as possible.
How does one become complaint?
A body corporate that employs worker/s that could be exposed to asbestos containing materials, must have the workplace inspected by a competent asbestos inspector before 31 May 2022. The main duties of any employer include the following:
have the workplace inspected by a competent person or authorised inspection authority;
receive an asbestos free certificate or, if asbestos is found, to have an asbestos inventory drawn up;
have a risk assessment and asbestos management plan drawn up;
provide training of at least eight hours to all employees who may be contact with asbestos;
provide annual refresher training of at least two hours to all employees, and
place prescribed signage and labels at all areas where asbestos materials have been identified.
The body corporate must approach a competent and suitably qualified person to assist with the compliance.
What if one doesn’t comply?
A body corporate failing to comply with the provisions of the regulations is guilty of an offence and can be prosecuted leading to fines and/or imprisonment. Employers can also be held liable for any losses or damages suffered by an employee, as a result of asbestos related diseases contracted due to exposure to asbestos. As we can see, failure to comply is not an option.
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About the Author: Leigh-Anne Harrison is a Portfolio Manager at RPA Property Administrators