The implementation of a ban on the handling of asbestos by builders in the ACT has caused major complications for efforts by the construction industry to remove the hazardous material, compelling local government to partially rescind the decision mere months after it was first introduced.
Since the start of 2015, the ACT government has required that only licensed removalists perform the extraction and disposal of asbestos from buildings within the territory.
The decision followed what the ACT government deemed to be widespread abuse of a prior regulation permitting builders without special qualifications to remove as much as 10 square metres of bonded asbestos sheeting from homes.
The ban caused a significant catch-22 for dealing with asbestos situated within the structure of the building itself, however, given that neither builders nor licensed removalists possessed sufficient qualifications to perform such work independently.
Planning Minister Mick Gentleman noted that under the rules introduced this year, builders were qualified to perform structural work but not to handle asbestos, while licensed asbestos removalists were not allowed to alter the critical infrastructure of the building.
This meant it would be impossible for members of the construction industry to deal with homes containing asbestos in the form that’s most commonly found in the nation’s capital – installed as friable loose fibres in the building wall cavities of Mr Fluffy houses to serve as insulation.
“If a Mr Fluffy house is to be demolished it ought to be done by or supervised by a licensed builder, whose license authorises demolition,” said Gentleman. “However, a builder cannot do the work or supervise doing the work because the builder’s license currently prohibits a builder from dealing with asbestos.
“Only an asbestos removalist can do the asbestos removal but the removalist does not have the specialist knowledge, and nor does his license qualify him to safely demolish a building.”
The law has since been changed to require that qualified builders or individuals qualified to serve as both asbestos removalists and builders oversee the removal of asbestos in circumstances where the building structure is affected.