In many countries around the world, the risks associated with Asbestos exposure are widely known. There have been a significant number of claims in recent years associated with asbestos exposure, notably in the media you can recall manufacturing company James Hardie providing millions of dollars’ worth of compensation to victims suffering from asbestos related illnesses such as asbestosis and mesothelioma.
A large majority of buildings constructed before the 1980’s in Australia contained a significant amount of asbestos products. Fibro was a common building material used during this time which before 1986, nearly always contained asbestos. Today, this now presents a risk to a number of occupations including building and construction workers, as well as cleaning and maintenance staff who may unknowingly disturb the dangerous material through carrying out their usual activities.
Is therefore important for these types of businesses to protect both themselves and their workers through having the correct accreditation and qualifications to appropriately handle asbestos materials, as well as ensuring they have a comprehensive Asbestos Liability Insurance Policy in place.
Who is Exposed?
Apart from fully accredited asbestos removal professionals who deal with asbestos regularly as their core business, there are numerous other occupations who either directly or indirectly come into contact with asbestos products in their business activities.
Tradesmen such as building contractors, plumbers and electricians may occasionally come into contact with asbestos while carrying out their work. In this instance, it is important that any person dealing with asbestos products is fully accredited and qualified with the safe handling and removal of the product. Often, tradesmen can encounter asbestos unknowingly in which case, it is vital to contact asbestos contractors to handle the material safely.
Regardless, any type of asbestos removal whether that be on a commercial or residential site, should not proceed without the necessary qualifications and insurance cover as the consequences of not doing so can be disastrous.
What Can I Do to Protect My Business?
If you are a tradesperson and deal with asbestos directly or indirectly, it is important that you protect yourself from asbestos related claims through having asbestos liability insurance. Although you may be accredited to handle asbestos, that does not mean you are adequately insured to do so under a standard public liability policy. Commonly, there are specific exclusions in the policy wording for asbestos exposure which can be a trap for businesses.
For example, if a building contractor is performing work on a wall that contains asbestos, and a section of the wall falls and damages property such as a vehicle, most insurers would reject the claim as it involved asbestos.
It is therefore recommended that businesses who are likely to encounter asbestos or who deal with it regularly take up additional insurance that is specific to asbestos liability. Having an asbestos liability policy provides an added level of security against such exclusions from standard public liability policies. Having asbestos cover ensures you are covered for any costs that may arise as a result of accidents or property damage while handling asbestos. Without this level of cover, you leave yourself vulnerable to costly claims and unpaid damages.
Fines and Penalties
The fines and penalties relating to asbestos handling and removal can be severe. Businesses who do not adequately handle asbestos may face civil penalties under Occupational Health and Safety Law and Environmental Law, where breaches can lead to large fines under various Statutes.
Business who have been found non-compliant with health and safety regulations may face fines of up to $550,000 while penalties for environmental damage may be as high as $5.5 million. An asbestos liability policy can be extended to include statutory liability, providing protection for such fines if they arise.
It is clear the damage to your business’ reputation and finances would be devastating without asbestos liability cover to protect you in the unfortunate event you were found liable. The importance of dedicating time to exploring the covers available and their specific policy wording is high, as not doing so could result in your business being exposed to asbestos related claims.
The requirement for asbestos liability cover not only applies to asbestos contractors, but also to tradesmen and home renovators who can often overlook the requirement for such insurance. It is recommended that you speak with an experienced and knowledgeable broker to assist you in finding the most suitable policy for your requirements and to mitigate the risks associated with the handling of asbestos.
Learn more about asbestos liability insurance.