Andersen in South Africa's Safety Health and Environmental team recently hosted an online Coffee Chat with key clients and stakeholders in the mining sector to discuss, amongst others, recent amendments to the Asbestos Abatement Regulations and the Regulations relating to Hazardous Chemical Agents.

The team of James Cross, Melissa Grobbelaar and Liezl Sterne wrapped up the event with answers to questions from guests, which summarise some of the key highlights of changes made.

Changes to the Asbestos Abatement Regulations

One of the primary changes to these regulations is that a positive duty is placed on all Employers to engage the services of a competent person to identify all materials containing asbestos in the workplace. It would therefore no longer be deemed sufficient to only take reasonable measures to determine the location of asbestos in the workplace that could have an impact on the health of employees or pollute the environment. Where asbestos have been identified in the workplace, the competent person must compile an asbestos inventory, which , as a minimum, must be reviewed every two years as well as an asbestos management plan, that conforms to the provisions set out in sub-regulation 6(2), and that must be reviewed by the Employer at intervals not exceeding eight years.

A question was raised as to whether a survey for asbestos is still required to be completed in the event that, (a) a previous assessment had already been completed by a competent person, and/or (b) if it is clear that there is no asbestos and/or asbestos-containing materials present on the site.

An asbestos assessment by a competent person is not required in respect of any buildings or structures constructed after 2010, as this was when the use of asbestos and/or asbestos-containing materials was no longer permitted. Similarly, if an asbestos assessment had already been completed by a competent person, the Employer would not be required to conduct another assessment, provided that the competent person can substantiate the asbestos-free status of the workplace, in writing.

Another question raised relates to the types of contractor expertise required when conducting asbestos work. The types of asbestos work have been divided into three groupings, varying in complexity and risk. It was confirmed that Type 1 asbestos work, including basic maintenance activities such as painting, sealing or removal of asbestos that is less than 10m², not to be repeated in a period of 6 months, can be conducted in-house, provided that the provisions and controls as set out in sub-regulation 11(1) are complied with. However, where any Type 2 or 3 asbestos work is planned, this must be done by a registered asbestos contractor in accordance with the provisions and controls as provided for in the regulations.

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