Blue Mountains Council hits back at asbestos report

A report commissioned by SafeWork NSW about buildings owned by the Blue Mountains City Council has found asbestos present in 19 council-owned buildings.


According to an article published in the Blue Mountains Gazette on the 19 July 2017, some of the 19 “high risk” buildings include a pre-school, a sports centre in Katoomba, two cinemas, a caravan park, a neighbourhood centre and a family support service, as well as the council’s own depot.


Council have said it’s undertaken all the immediate actions recommended in the report and that only two of the buildings required immediate removal of material containing asbestos.


The report was prepared by the Centium Group, a workplace health and safety service, on 31 May this year, advising “immediate action” was needed to eliminate or minimise exposure to asbestos containing material (ACM), following inspections by SafeWork NSW.


A council spokesperson told the Blue Mountains Gazette that: “In response to recent notifications of Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) on a worksite and community buildings, Council has acted in a timely, open and appropriate manner to the satisfaction of SafeWork and council’s independent expert consultant.”


“The classification of ‘high risk’ by the consultant does not suggest there is clear and present danger at these locations. Rather, they said the classification is applied to those locations at which a risk of exposure would be considered high in the event of ACM being disrupted. As the ACM is being managed appropriately at these sites this is not the case,” said the spokesperson.


“The safety, health and wellbeing of our community and employees are paramount. We take asbestos management seriously.” 


Dr Stephen James, a director with Centium confirmed the information and told the Blue Mountains Gazette, Centium was still providing health and safety advice and working on an asbestos management plan for Council. 

“We are advised Council has responded to this report and the associated recommendations, in a timely and appropriate manner,” James said.


The report indicates high risk ACM was either friable and not in a stable condition; friable but stable and accessible; or bonded but broken, damaged or unstable. Friable ACM, suggests Centium is any material that contains more than one per cent asbestos by weight or area and, depending on whether it is a bulk or sheet material and can be crumbled by hand. 


The report advised access is restricted in high-risk locations by erecting barriers or locking doors with appropriate signage to warn workers of the potential presence of ACM.


The Council spokesperson said the need to identify and manage ACM in public facilities was a challenge faced by councils across NSW and the Blue Mountains Council had “notified affected users/tenants of the buildings/locations that required remediation.”


The spokesperson added that many of the actions recommended had been completed, prior to the SafeWork inspection and prior to the receipt of the report. 


“Of the 19, only two immediate actions recommended by Centium required the removal of ACM, being Springwood Depot and Lawson Oval storeroom.”


“There are no restrictions on public access to any building/location identified in the Centium report. Should there be a need to restrict public access Council will notify the public, close the affected building and undertake the necessary remediation work.


“Council has had a focus on asbestos management in recent months since becoming aware of the gaps in its records and planning and has responded as a matter of priority to improve the overall management of asbestos in council-owned facilities.”

In response to the Blue Mountains Gazette article, Council issued a statement saying they have acted in a timely, open and appropriate manner to the satisfaction of SafeWork and Council’s independent expert.



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