New regulations push South Africa towards an asbestos-free environment
Asbestos has been banned for some time in South Africa, but new regulations put even more responsibility at the door of employers and workers to take care of their health.
EMPLOYERS will now be held responsible for ensuring workers have a safe working environment following the recent promulgation of Asbestos Abatement Regulations on 10 November 2020 by the Department of Employment and Labour (DEL) Minister. This makes it an employer’s duty to provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees.
Asbestos has been banned in South Africa for more than a decade now following the promulgation in 2008 of parts of the Environment Conservation Act of 1989. The Asbestos Abatement Regulations, promulgated on 10 November 2020, marks a move towards making employers responsible for providing as safe environment for workers. Director General of the (DEL) Thobile Lamati, speaking at the launch of the Asbestos Abatement Regulations, on Friday, 27 November said terminating the use of asbestos should be celebrated as it will improve the environment as well as lead to fewer health problems related to the use of the silicate mineral.
The regulations make it clear that employers are obliged to identify any asbestos in the workplace and manage it property. This duty is also extended to employees to take care of their health and safety and also look after others who may be affected by their acts or omissions.
Although there is no national policy currently with a cut-off date when all buildings must be asbestos free, employers are encouraged to self-develop a policy and procedure as to how they are going to phase out asbestos in their buildings.
Regulations 3 and 20 in the new rules allow employers an implementation time period of 18 months from the promulgation date (10 November 2020), to develop written asbestos management plans, including the labelling and signage to indicate materials or buildings containing asbestos.
The new Asbestos Abatement Regulations 2020 replaces the Asbestos Regulations, 2001 and was done in partnership with National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH). The launch was observed under the theme: “Moving towards an asbestos risk free work environment and society”.
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