When the Ministry of Health developed new regulations to manage the millions of tonnes of asbestos materials in New Zealand, it needed to ensure checks and balances would always be in place, such is the level of danger within all asbestos material.
The independent asbestos assessor plays an important role in these checks and balances.
Not only do detailed training courses prepare people to deal with asbestos safely, the regulations require that each removal job is also checked by an independent asbestos assessor.
For anybody ordering and paying for the removal of asbestos materials, this final independent check is an additional cost, but it can verify that the area is permanently safe from any potential asbestos fibres reaching human life.
David Serville, managing director of Chemcare, said his company’s employees welcome this final sign-off approach to the work of asbestos removal.
“There is some criticism that the regulations are pedantic, but the we are dealing with a product that continues to take about 170 New Zealand lives a year,”: said David.
“It is easy to become casual about asbestos, especially when you don’t even notice if you’re inhaling it and when the actual fatal symptoms don’t show themselves for many years.
An independent assessor helps our company to keep our own people safe and is a continuous check that we have done our work correctly.
I also support the concept of an asbestos assessor being completely independent of our removal service. Like a teacher marking our work. An asbestos assessor keeps us sharp.”
All of the training courses have been developed and refined to ensure people involved in the effort to remove asbestos, keep themselves safe, as well as others
Licensed asbestos assessors do the following tasks:
Air monitoring during asbestos removal work, using sensitive equipment which detects asbestos fibres in the atmosphere.
Clearance inspections – checking that plastic sheeting has been correctly removed, vacuuming completed
Issuing of final clearance certificates for removal sites
Asbestos assessors can also carry out other tasks, including identifying asbestos and carrying out a risk assessment.
Asbestos assessor licences are granted to individual people.
From 4 April 2018, only licensed assessors are permitted to carry out final checks.
An asbestos assessor is not required for every removal project.
The need for more qualified assessors seems likely, according Chemcare management, a company which invests in improving its own processes beyond the requirements of the regulations.
“Our staff report that they are learning through new experiences every day,” said David Serville.
“So we need to capture those lessons and get better at what we do.
“Asbestos assessors can also use this new field experience to improve their own asbestos testing and asbestos clearance procedures.”
In the meantime, for those considering a career as asbestos assessors, here is a list of skills sets that the training provides.:
Plan for assessment process of asbestos removal
Prepare to collect site measurements and other data
Use measuring devices to collect site information and data
Evaluate and document results of the monitoring process according to accredited laboratory requirements
Be able to understand the scope of asbestos assessment work by undertaking a thorough review of the removal methodology.
Be able to confirm by means of on-site asbestos inspections that removal has been undertaken in line with the methodology.
Understand the risks/hazards associated with asbestos removal work, and to ensure that appropriate safety measures are in place – specifically in regard to cleanliness and decontamination.
Be able to verify that work has been completed by means of thorough visual inspections and air testing within work areas.
Understand the importance of communicating any findings of asbestos and observations, and how to document these appropriately.
Have an understanding of the limitations of the method, common issues that can arise and potential conflicts of interest, so that an assessor remains independent in all times.