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23 November 2018

Mum and dad renovators and young DIY enthusiasts are at risk of becoming ‘third wave’ asbestos victims, said the head of the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC).

The QBCC has instigated an asbestos awareness campaign as the popularity of renovation TV shows and the upcoming holiday season has led to an increase in owner-builder permit applications.

So far this financial year the QBCC has seen a 14 per cent increase in owner-builder permit applications, with around 1400 permits issued since January 2017 for work on homes built prior to 1990, when asbestos was widely-used.

Meanwhile the death toll for asbestos-related diseases continues to climb with an average of 4000 deaths in Australia each year.

QBCC Commissioner Brett Bassett said asbestos-related risks still needed to be front of mind for those potentially exposed to the material.

“There are a lot of things that renovators need to consider when they undertake a big project, but we want to make sure that asbestos isn’t glossed over and viewed as an old problem relegated to the past,” Mr Bassett said.

“With the QBCC’s role in providing permits for owner-builders, we are uniquely placed to communicate to people undertaking large-scale home renovations who may come in contact with asbestos.

“Already, where applicants indicate asbestos removal is a part of their planned work, we are providing them with up-to-date information on the safe removal and disposal of the materials.
“Over the next year, the QBCC will be looking to further leverage our partnerships with agencies who have been at the forefront of the asbestos issue and connect our owner-builders with the information they need to avoid the risks of asbestos in older buildings.”

While renovators can be exposed to hidden asbestos in pre-1990 homes, the substance has been sneaking onto building sites in imported building materials, meaning tradies as well as renovators need to be vigilant.

“The fact is there are now apprentices on worksites who were not born when the Australia-wide ban on asbestos came in, and may not be aware of the devastating impact it can have,” Mr Bassett said.

In addition to the awareness action plan, Mr Bassett said the Non-conforming Building Products Amendment Act, which came into effect in November last year, gave the QBCC power to hold the entire building supply chain to account for the use of building products that do not meet standards, including asbestos-containing materials.

“We will not hesitate to protect our licensees and the wider public by using our expanded powers to ensure new asbestos-containing materials do not enter the Queensland construction supply chain,” he said.

Read more about the QBCC’s advice on asbestos here and about the three waves of victims here.