Agencies managing high-risk asbestos but improvements still needed

Office of the Auditor General

Auditor General Colin Murphy has found while some improvement was evident, agencies needed to do more to make sure they properly managed asbestos in government buildings.

Mr Murphy said the agencies included in his latest audit were responsible for over 50 000 properties and all were addressing high-risk asbestos.

’I was pleased to find three of the seven agencies displayed better practice in identifying and managing asbestos,’ he said.

'These agencies had regular inspections, remediated high-risk asbestos as a priority, kept up-to-date records, provided training and communicated the risks to staff and others. ‘This is a clear improvement on my 2007 report in which none of the agencies audited had complete and up-to-date asbestos registers and management plans.’

Mr Murphy said he identified elements of better practice at the other four agencies, however they had room for improvement.

‘The other four agencies remediated or removed known high-risk asbestos as a priority, but their registers and Asbestos Management Plans were incomplete or not up to date,’ he said.

‘I also found weaknesses in their training and communication, which meant staff and others were not adequately informed of the presence of asbestos.’

Asbestos is a naturally occurring substance that was extensively used in building materials throughout Western Australia until the late 1980s. When it is in good condition it does not pose a risk, but when it is broken, or worn the risk of people inhaling fibres increases.

Mr Murphy said it was important agencies knew where asbestos might be present in their buildings, so they could monitor its condition and manage potential health risks.

‘Agencies have a responsibility to the people using their buildings to manage asbestos properly,’ he said.

‘I was disappointed to find that no single body had responsibility to coordinate the management of asbestos across government. As a result, agencies now have differing practices in identifying and managing asbestos risks, which has led to gaps and inefficiencies. I have recommended government consider this matter.'

‘Meanwhile, the principles outlined in my report should be used by all agencies to ensure the safety of staff and others using their properties.’

The Auditor General’s report, Asbestos Management in Public Sector Agencies (Report 3 – April 2015), is available on the Office of the Auditor General website.

'As a result, agencies now have differing practices in identifying and managing asbestos risks, which has led to gaps and inefficiencies.

'I have recommended government consider this matter. Meanwhile, the principles outlined in my report should be used by all agencies to ensure the safety of staff and others using their properties.'

The Auditor General’s report, Asbestos Management in Public Sector Agencies (Report 3 – April 2015), is available on the Office of the Auditor General website.