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.
The Queensland Government’s Safer Buildings Combustible Cladding Checklist program has cleared almost 14,000 private buildings – confirming they are safe and secure for tenants and workers.
The program was established in 2018 to ensure all Queensland buildings meet safety requirements regarding building material use and provide occupants a ‘right to know’ if their home or workplace does not pass the test.
Under the program, which is conducted in three parts, nearly 14,000 private building combustible cladding assessments have already been completed and cleared, with two more years to go until the completion of the entire audit program.
Minister for Housing and Public Works, Mick de Brenni, said that under Part 1 of the program, 13,715 registrants out of 20,380 had successfully completed the audit at zero cost. The remaining 5026 registrants in the program will take Part 2 to rule out that the building is clad in combustible material.
“It’s been very pleasing to see that 14,000 building owners doing the right thing and clearing their building as safe,” said Mr de Brenni.
“Having almost 14,000 buildings registered means those who live and work there will now have peace of mind.”
After several fires in other states, the Commonwealth commissioned a national review that identified failure to comply with fire engineering guidelines had become a serious issue over many years.
Mr de Brenni said the report confirmed that the Queensland process was indeed required.
“The Shergold Weir Review showed that a minority in the building industry had failed to follow the rules and was putting lives at risk,” he stated.
Mr de Brenni further detailed that the building materials sector had worked hard to ensure that information about the safe use of materials was made available to consumers and builders.
“Building materials, when used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions are safe – that’s why manufacturers publish details of how they should be used. These details must be available and are usually easily identified on the manufacturer’s website.”
Part 2 of the Safer Buildings program will give building owners until 29 May 2019 to seek professional advice to confirm if their building meets the Safer Buildings guidelines.
“We will not risk discovering the next unlawful use of combustible cladding through a loss of Queenslanders lives in a high-rise building fire like those overseas,” the Minister said, “building owners who already know or suspect they have combustible cladding on their building are able to progress directly to Part 3 of the program, saving the cost of engaging a building industry professional.”
“So far the Safer Buildings process has done exactly what it needed to do – and thankfully owners are treating this issue seriously. It’s heartening to see that tenants’ safety is being put first, especially by those building owners going ahead to Part 3 of the program,” Mr de Brenni concluded.
Building owners required to complete Part 2 of the Safer Buildings combustible cladding checklist before 29 May 2019 can find more information here.