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In recent headlines, the issue of asbestos has once again taken center stage, impacting communities across Queensland. With reports of asbestos found in mulch across parks and schools in multiple states in Australia, the gravity of the situation cannot be overstated. As the investigation unfolds, it becomes clear that negligence regarding asbestos handling can have severe legal and health implications.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has escalated its response, designating 130 personnel to join the criminal investigation. Over 100 businesses within the supply chain and more than 200 sites, including schools and public spaces in Queensland, have been implicated in the scandal. Despite advancements in safety protocols, asbestos remains a persistent threat to public health, and any mishandling of this hazardous material is treated as a serious criminal offense.

For body corporate owners, particularly those overseeing buildings constructed before 1989, vigilance regarding asbestos management is paramount. According to the Work Health Safety Regulations, if a building operates as a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), it must maintain an asbestos register and management plan. These documents, once asbestos is identified through a survey, are crucial for ensuring the safety of occupants and contractors working within the building.

The management plan and asbestos register must be readily accessible on-site for employees or contractors conducting works. Moreover, it is a legal requirement to update these documents every five years to reflect the current condition of asbestos within the premises. Even if the body corporate does not operate as a PCBU, there remains a duty of care to mitigate health risks associated with asbestos exposure.

Should concerns arise regarding the presence of asbestos within a property, it is imperative to take proactive steps to address the issue. This includes identifying asbestos-containing areas, maintaining them through regular inspections, and informing contractors about their presence and location (done by the register and management plan onsite). Such measures ensure safe handling, preventing any potential contamination of surrounding areas, such as the issues highlighted above.

In light of recent events and ongoing regulatory scrutiny, prioritizing asbestos awareness and compliance is essential for body corporate owners. By adhering to legal obligations and implementing robust asbestos management strategies, we can safeguard the health and well-being of all occupants and mitigate the risk of legal repercussions.