A Federal Circuit Court case has re-highlighted the significant safety issue of new products containing asbestos being imported and used in Australian workplaces, potentially exposing workers to the deadly substance in their day-to-day tasks.
In a significant development, given the recent safety scandals involving the importation and use of asbestos-containing materials, the model WHS Act has been amended to make it mandatory for regulators to issue notices when they believe "prohibited asbestos" is present at a workplace, with maximum fines of $500,000 for those that fail to comply with a notice.
A regulator has alerted workers to their WHS duties pertaining to the coronavirus outbreak, while a local council has committed some $2 million to safety improvements and enforceable undertakings after being accused of failing to prepare asbestos registers and other WHS breaches.
Thousands of asbestos-containing materials are still in place in workplaces and homes and employers that disregard the deadly hazard are being targeted, according to warnings issued for national Asbestos Awareness Week this week. Meanwhile, the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency's functions are likely to be expanded under the recommendations of a statutory review tabled in Parliament today.
> Falling work fatality rate encouraging, but "not cause for celebration"; > Regulators issue fatality alerts, PCBU receives 13 prohibition notices; and > Many employers falling short of sun-related WHS duties.
A 42-year-old mesothelioma sufferer, and member of the "third wave" of asbestos victims, has been awarded a record $3 million in exemplary and other damages, with a court warning that widespread appreciation of the hazard does little to protect workers and home owners.