Asbestos guidelines agreed on

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Invercargill City Council director of environmental and planning services Pamela Gare signs the new Asbestos Liaison Protocol Southland with WorkSafe NZ Southland manager and Southland District councillor Nick Perham at the council chambers on Esk St on June 14.

GUIDELINES for dealing with asbestos in the region have officially been signed off.

The newly-formed Asbestos Liaison Protocol Southland held a signing ceremony at the Invercargill City Council (ICC) chambers on Esk St on June 14, with representatives from the ICC, Southland District Council, Environment Southland, the Southern District Health Board, Safe in the South and WorkSafe NZ officially agreeing to the guidelines for dealing with asbestos.

The guidelines map procedures for dealing with asbestos, including a flow-chart to help people decide on the correct action and which organisations have responsibility in various scenarios.

WorkSafe NZ Southland manager and Southland District councillor Nick Perham established an official asbestos working group as a result of the demolition of the Hawthorndale School in Invercargill in 2015, he said.

“There was a bit of confusion at the time. We realised we needed to have something in place.”

The Hawthorndale School demolition site contained asbestos and WorkSafe NZ was called to the scene. However, since there was no official worksite and the demolition was carried out by volunteers, WorkSafe NZ “had no jurisdiction”, Mr Perham said.

Southland’s three councils were then notified and the site was investigated by Environment Southland (ES) in 2016, who found a “minimal amount” of asbestos, he said.

ES compliance manager Simon Mapp said: “When it comes to asbestos, there are a number of different acts with several organisations involved, so figuring out which act took precedent was challenging [in the Hawthorndale School incident].”

Mr Mapp said the new Southland asbestos protocol “should resolve this issue if it crops up again”.

As of April 4, last year, New Zealand landlords and workplace managers are classified as PCBUs (a person conducting a business or undertaking) under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, or the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016.

PCBUs risk fines if they do not comply with rules regarding the handling of asbestos in residential properties and workplaces and are responsible for identifying and dealing with asbestos.

PCBUs finding asbestos must notify tenants or employees and create appropriate asbestos management plans for any stable asbestos not needing immediate removal.

For asbestos removal or contamination, WorkSafe NZ advises PCBUs to consult section 8 of the Approved Code of Practice for the Management and Removal of Asbestos.

WorkSafe chief inspector Keith Stewart said asbestos was the single biggest cause of death from work-related diseases in New Zealand.

About 170 people die in New Zealand every year from asbestos-related diseases.

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