8 May 2019

Asbestos and a strata manager’s responsibility

Do you suspect the common areas of a building you manage have asbestos? Do you think the fire doors are asbestos? What about the roof tiles or foyer ceilings?

As with external combustible cladding, identifying and reporting issues pertaining to properties you manage is an important function of a strata manager’s role. And the industry advice is it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Asbestos management plan

Shane Foley, Director at BIV Reports, suggests strata managers advise their owners corporations to obtain an asbestos register and management plan. 

“A report like this offers protection for you, your contractors and owners,” he says.

“It simply identifies all potential asbestos containing materials (ACM) at a site and presents appropriate control measures, in a single document. This information can be easily shared with all parties to prevent asbestos-related incidents.”

Foley says many agents take this step, but have used the incorrect terminology and, therefore, received a report or audit, rather than a management plan.

“Asking for an asbestos report or audit, or requesting a sample test or check, will not provide a comprehensive overview of the property you manage,” he says. 

“An asbestos register and management plan afford you far greater protection than getting a test of a single item, in terms of both diligence and compliance.”

Understanding your property

For properties built between 1960 and 1990, obtaining an asbestos register and management plan is simply the right thing to do, says Foley.

“Asbestos is a harmful material and agents have a duty of care to ensure it doesn’t harm people living and working on or in the property,” he says.

“Currently the NSW Court looks at the principles contained within the Civil Liability Act 2002 (section 5B). This includes whether the risk was foreseeable. That is, it is a risk of which the person knew or ought to have known?

“Non-compliance can be an expensive exercise, so why risk it?”

So what should an asbestos register and management plan include? Foley says it should:

  • Record any asbestos or ACM identified at the property 
  • The date on which the asbestos or ACM was identified
  • The location, type and condition of the asbestos or ACM
  • Describe whether it’s friable or non-friable
  • Provide a control measure to manage the asbestos or ACM

Action for agents

Foley says there are four steps to preventing asbestos-related incidents in properties you manage.

“First, agents need to assess any high-risk properties in their portfolios,” he says. “Then they should educate their owners corporation on any risks identified, and how they can be managed and controlled, at their next annual general meeting.

“Upon acceptance by the owners corporation, agents can order an asbestos register and management plan. This can then be freely shared with the owners corporation, owners, tenants and contractors to prevent life-threatening incidents from occurring.”

Foley admits that not all owners corporations will agree the risk warrants further investigation, but if raised in the annual general meeting, the meeting minutes will reflect the agent’s diligence under the agency agreement.

“However,” Foley says. “Asbestos-related risks being noted in the meeting minutes does not remove the risk.”

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