Overview of the National Strategic Plan

Key strategies and outcomes

Overarching aim

To prevent exposure to airborne asbestos fibres in order to eliminate asbestos-related disease in Australia.

Strategies

Six key strategies are identified as a means of achieving this goal:

  • Awareness
  • Best practice
  • Identification
  • Removal
  • Research, and
  • International leadership.

Principles

The principles outlined below will guide how the work to deliver the outcomes of the plan will be achieved. The principles are:

Precaution – a proactive and cautious approach should be taken to ensure there is no increased risk to the community in any activities to be implemented under the plan.

Evidence-based decision making – decision making regarding asbestos management and awareness should be based on sound evidence and analysis from scientifically robust sources.

Transparency – activities will be conducted in an open and transparent manner and all stakeholders should have access to the information available.

Public participation – the risks of exposure to asbestos is a community issue and consideration needs to be given to the interests and concerns of all Australians.

Collaboration – with management of asbestos involving all tiers of government, activities must be planned and delivered through effective coordination between agencies and governments. 

How to tackle the task

The Australian community indicated a national strategic plan should aspire to reduce and eliminate further asbestos-related disease in submissions made to the Asbestos Management Review (AMR). To achieve this, the AMR recommended the use of an aspirational aim to eliminate the risks of asbestos from government and commercial structures by 2030. This date was intended to be aspirational and will not be used as a final deadline but as a way to test objectives and timelines to measure progress to reduce and ultimately eliminate asbestos-related diseases in Australia.

The plan takes a phased approach, pursuing shorter term targets that align with the overarching vision of the plan to eliminate asbestos-related disease in Australia.

Overview of phased planning

This plan is part of a phased strategy for asbestos management and awareness that will encompass three stages. Previous work undertaken by both the AMR and the Office of Asbestos Safety (OAS) shows there is limited information and data available regarding the location and condition of asbestos in Australia. Information gathered in the first phase will inform the goals to be pursued in the second and third phases to achieve the aim of reducing the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres and eliminate asbestos-related disease. Accordingly, information obtained in the first phase may result in a shift in focus in relation to the second and third phase aims and outcomes.

Phase one of the plan: 2014-18

The plan will continue to support the existing risk management of asbestos and complement this by identifying evidence and information to reduce risks. Phase one will undertake work on areas where there is a widespread consensus. It will incorporate research, projects and testing of approaches to gather the evidence, supporting tools, and systems to identify options that reduce the risks posed by asbestos in the built environment.

Later phases of the plan

Following this plan, further phases will be developed that will continue to work towards the goal of eliminating asbestos-related disease in Australia. Phase two will apply the knowledge and information developed in the first phase to inform goals that can be achieved. It is expected that this testing will focus on a number of different types of structures in a variety of locations to identify any unique challenges that may need to be addressed to support the safe management and removal of ageing ACM. This will also examine the effectiveness of relevant frameworks such as public health, planning, work health and safety and the environment to identify potential improvement opportunities for consideration to prevent exposure to asbestos and eliminate asbestos-related disease in Australia.

By phase three, a practical approach will be identified to address the ongoing risks posed by the remaining ACM in the built environment, and to support the removal of all remaining asbestos in poor condition or likely to pose a risk so far as is reasonably practicable. 

Working with governments

It is important that all levels of government work together and take an active role in the awareness, management and ultimate eradication of asbestos to reduce the incidence of asbestos-related disease.

To achieve this, the plan promotes working in partnership with the relevant Australian, state and territory government agencies and local government. Government stakeholders will also provide ongoing input into the implementation of the plan and development of future phases.

Working with stakeholders

In addition to government, the safe management of asbestos involves a diverse group, including, researchers, industry, employer groups, employee representatives, not-for-profit organisations, and public health bodies. To ensure that the community’s concerns are heard and addressed, the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency will work in partnership with all stakeholders to ensure the priority areas of the plan reflect the needs of the community.

The plan is not intended to be a static document. In the ongoing development of the plan, the agency will facilitate a whole of community risk-based approach that addresses public concerns about asbestos. As this work evolves, so too will the plan.