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Asbestos is finally on its way out

It has been a long time coming. Asbestos is outlawed and building owners, including homeowners, were advised to make plans for the removal of damaged asbestos.

According to asbestos consultants, Ingozi Management, the spotlight is firmly on plans to rid South Africa of all asbestos on buildings including homes, schools, factories, warehouses, offices, retail centers, residential complexes, and all industrial buildings.

Ingozi Management managing director, Geoffrey Jäck, says asbestos removal is strictly regulated by the Asbestos Abatement Regulations 2020 and closely monitored by the Department of Employment and Labour in accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Act 85 of 1993). Depending on the quantity of asbestos and its condition, home and building owners must commission the services of an approved, registered asbestos contractor (RAC) to work with or remove asbestos.

The Asbestos Abatement Regulations 2020 provides guidelines for the identification of asbestos and plans for its removal including the use of registered asbestos contractors. The regulations state that owners of buildings and homes that contain asbestos as part of their construction, such as roofing, or in substructures such as water tanks, gutters, and downpipes, had to have a competent person assess the asbestos, draft an asbestos inventory, and have an asbestos management plan detailing and quantifying the removal of damaged asbestos by May 2022. Penalties may be implemented by the Department of Employment and Labour should this not be in place.

Classification of asbestos types

Jäck explains that asbestos maintenance and removal is classified into 3 types of asbestos:

• Type 1 asbestos includes the painting of asbestos cement products that do not need surface preparation or cause any release of asbestos fibers, or the removal of less than 10 square meters of asbestos or equivalent gutters and piping or asbestos insulating boards, where removal work may not be repeated on the same site within a period of six months. This work does not need the contractor to be a registered asbestos contractor with the Chief Inspector (Department of Employment & Labour)

• Type 2 asbestos includes the repair/encapsulation of cement asbestos products in a manner that does not require surface preparation or the removal of asbestos cement products or asbestos insulating board. To work with Type 2 asbestos projects, the contractor is required to be a Type 2 registered asbestos contractor with the Chief Inspector (Department of Employment & Labour). Type 2 registered asbestos contractors may also not remove asbestos-lagging material.

• Type 3 asbestos includes the removal, repair, or encapsulation of any asbestos and asbestos-containing material. The contractor must be registered as a Type 3 registered asbestos contractor with the Chief Inspector (Department of Employment & Labour).

Owner responsibilities

Building owners are required to:

• Identify asbestos in their building by employing a competent person with knowledge of asbestos.

• Obtain a risk assessment to assess the risk categorization and potential of exposure to asbestos from the asbestos-containing materials, this must be done in intervals not exceeding 24 months or sooner depending on the state of deterioration of the asbestos.

• Provide an asbestos inventory report.

• An approved inspection authority must review and endorse the asbestos inventory and risk assessment in intervals not exceeding 6 years.

• Have an asbestos management plan drafted to include a proposed plan to remove the asbestos using a registered asbestos contractor, this must be reassessed in intervals not exceeding 8 years, or sooner depending on any asbestos work being carried out or the state of deterioration of the asbestos.

• The Department of Employment and Labour must be notified, in writing, 7 days prior to the commencement of any asbestos work, whether it is type 1, type 2 or type 3 asbestos work.

The identification of asbestos must be done by a competent person, with the required skills in asbestos work, as products have been manufactured that closely resemble asbestos since the banning of asbestos products nearly 4 decades ago.

Jäck says that the Department is committed to clearing asbestos on all buildings and has put the onus on building owners to identify and draft an inventory of asbestos and to put a plan in place for its removal.

Must all asbestos be replaced now?

An inventory and risk assessment needs to be done. Once assessments and conditions are determined, then only one can know if the asbestos needs to be replaced. Should your building or home contain asbestos that is still in good condition, you will need to have your asbestos assessed by a competent person every 24 months. There are options available for owners of buildings with aging, yet undamaged asbestos.

Owners still have options

Registered asbestos contractors can assist in the process to ensure home and building owners remain on the right side of the law. If your home or building contains asbestos, it is advisable to consult with a registered asbestos contractor or an asbestos health and safety officer to discuss options available to comply with the law.