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Asbestos – an everlasting reminder of the errors of history

While many may be forgiven for assuming that asbestosis and asbestos-related diseases are solely a horror of our past, they would unfortunately be sorely mistaken.

While asbestos related conditions may not be as common as they were in the last few decades, on account of the associated latency period in both asbestosis and mesothelioma conditions, there have arisen a variety of new exposure circumstances since the use of asbestos products began to be phased out in Australia during the 1980’s.

One such particular circumstance, is the discovery of asbestos products in buildings undergoing renovations and/or improvements. An article recently published by ABC News explored the concerning occurrences of this in relation to Queensland based state schools.

Since 2019, there have been 19 potential asbestos incidents in Queensland schools that arose as part of the State Governments’ initiative to install air-conditioning in all classrooms and school buildings. Of these 19 cases, 12 were identified as ‘notifiable incidents’, meaning that in order to undertake the planned operations/installations, the asbestos materials had to be disturbed and/or removed entirely. It appears likely that the remaining 7 incidents were simply the discovery of the asbestos material in situ and as such, did not fall under the purview of incidents that required ‘notification’.

When providing a statement on the issue, the Queensland Minister for Education, Grace Grace even went so far as to note:-

“You have to understand any school built before 1990 will have asbestos-containing material.”

While both the Government and the Opposition have at times conflicting thoughts on how these incidents have been handled to this point and how they ought to be handled moving forward. It is clear that both agree that the safety of students, teachers and staff is of paramount import and hence concur that the notification of these discoveries and incidents requires proactive and dynamic responses, to ensure the health and safety of all are protected.

Therefore, while asbestos-containing products are no longer produced in Australia or imported to the country, the remnants of a bygone era still haunt us to this day. In 2019, the Queensland Building and Construction Commission went so far as to note that:

“Despite asbestos use being banned since 2003, about one-third of Australian homes still contain asbestos products. It was used in more than 3,000 common building materials before it was banned, and these can be found in homes and gardens across Queensland.”

Accordingly, builders, contractors and even those performing minor renos or house improvements of their own, need to be vigilant and informed when it comes to asbestos and the multitude of asbestos-containing building products. It is vital that those who do not have the requisite experience and/or certifications in asbestos removal, contact a qualified professional in order to undertake the operations. This will help to ensure that we are not doomed to repeat the errors of our history and hopefully eliminate and/or mitigate the occurrence of these horrible conditions that have devastated so many families and communities over the years.

If you, a family member or a close friend has received a diagnosis of an asbestos-related condition, it is important you seek legal advice from an experienced and reputable practitioner. vbr Lawyers are highly specialised in asbestos-related claimsand can assist with ensuring your rights are protected.

Charlton is an Associate at our Gold Coast office and holds degrees in Business and Law from Griffith University.
Sean is proud to be a lawyer for everyday people no matter what their issue. He has practised in compensation law for all his legal career and he has a superb track record of achieving outstanding results for his clients.

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Your state has been updated to QLD. Practice areas on compensation law have been updated.