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Mossel Bay
6th Feb 2023
Community & LivingGeneral knowledgeHealth & Beauty

ASBESTOS: IN OR OUT?

“Asbestos” refers to six minerals that occur in the environment as bundles of fibres that can be separated into thin threads. These fibres are heat-, fire- and chemically resistant and do not conduct electricity. For these reasons, asbestos was widely used in many industries. The building and construction industry used asbestos for strengthening cement, insulation, roofing, fireproofing and sound absorption. However, in recent years it became apparent that asbestos poses significant health risks to persons exposed to breathing in these fibres at their workplace, in their homes or in their communities – thus labeled as a silent killer. 

In order to safeguard against the possible risks of asbestos, the Occupational Health and Safety Act prescribes certain measures to protect employees at their place of work. In May 2022, the 2020 Asbestos Regulations were gazetted which replaced the previous set of regulations promulgated in 2001. How will these new Regulations impact you as property owner, employer or self-employed person?  

The Regulations are essentially aimed at property owners where the owner is aware of the presence of asbestos on the premises, the property concerned is used as a place of employment and there is a possibility that employees can be exposed to asbestos. 

Should property owners fall within the scope of application, there will be an obligation on them to identify asbestos on their properties and subsequently compile a written inventory which details the asbestos as identified on the property. A “competent person” as defined in the Regulations, is required by the Regulations to identify the asbestos on the property and any subsequent work including to clean, paint, remove, stockpile, transport or dispose of asbestos must be done by a competent person. 

Although the Amended Regulations do not require property owners to have a specific Certificate of Compliance, the abovementioned inventory must be provided to the new owner of the premises when there is a transfer of ownership. It should also be noted that the presence of asbestos on a property can have a significant impact on the selling price, even though its presence alone is not in itself a defect. 

At this stage the Garden Route District does not have a disposal site where asbestos can be disposed of. The nearest disposal sites are situated in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, which means that the process to remove asbestos from your property can become costly. 

The impact of the new Regulations is not reason to be alarmed and property owners are not obliged to suddenly replace their roofs within the next few months. However, it can be reasonably expected that regulations and requirements around the issue of asbestos will be tightened rather than relaxed in the near future. It is advised that the process to replace asbestos structures should be embarked on sooner rather than later to avoid unnecessary costs, limited time frames, reduction of the property value and of course negative health impacts. 

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