Is your commercial building compliant with the Health and Safety At Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016?

Meaning 'inextinguishable' in Greek, asbestos has been used widely since ancient times due its fire and water resistant qualities. It's also New Zealand's largest workplace killer, according to WorkSafe NZ, with 170 asbestos-related deaths each year.

In an attempt to reduce this alarming statistic, the Government has introduced regulations aimed at reducing exposure to asbestos. With PCBU's required to put an asbestos plan in place before 4 April 2018 or face penalties, we take a closer look at how PCBU's such as commercial landlords are affected and what they need to do to ensure they meet their obligations.

The Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016 (Regulations) came into force on 4 April 2016. They regulate work on any structure that may involve asbestos. As part of this the Asbestos Regulations place a duty on any "PCBU with management or control of a workplace" to ensure any asbestos is identified in a workplace. This will include commercial landlords, and any tenants with workers, who will have overlapping duties to comply with the regulations. The regulations aim to protect those who carry out work in the workplace and the regulations require asbestos to be carefully managed.

This essentially requires commercial landlords to carry out an asbestos survey unless asbestos is assumed to be in the workplace or where landlords have reasonable grounds for believing there is no asbestos on the premises. Reasonable grounds include having evidence that:

  • confirms all asbestos has been removed; or
  • proof that no asbestos was located based on a previous survey by a person suitably qualified and experienced in asbestos identification.

If you have doubts about your commercial building and whether asbestos may be present, we recommend that your building is tested through an accredited asbestos tester. Worksafe indicates that buildings constructed, altered, or refurbished from 1940 until the mid-1980s are likely to contain asbestos containing materials (ACMs). You can find more guidelines here.

If asbestos is found or is assumed to be present, the Asbestos Regulations require landlords to put an Asbestos Management Plan in place by 4 April 2018 to identify the location of the asbestos and to mitigate the risk to workers who may be carrying out work involving asbestos. The plan must:

  • identify the asbestos;
  • record the decisions, and reasons for the decisions about the management of the risk caused by the asbestos at the workplace;
  • set out a procedure for recording incidents or emergencies involving asbestos at the workplace; and
  • include information about the workers who carry out work involving asbestos including any training that has been or will be provided to the workers, their roles and responsibilities and any health monitoring of the workers that has been or will be undertaken.

This asbestos management plan must be readily accessible for workers who carry out or intend to carry out work on the property and needs to be reviewed every 5 years at a minimum.

The 4 April 2018 deadline for implementing the plan has now passed. Landlords can face extensive penalties for being in breach of the Asbestos Regulations including fines of up to $50,000 for a company or $10,000 for an individual for failing to implement an Asbestos Management Plan before the deadline.  If you haven't got your plan in place, act now.

At Simpson Western we have a dedicated health and safety team who can help you understand whether your property requires an asbestos survey and how to implement an asbestos management plan.