Fostering the career progression of our team is important to us. By encouraging our staff to constantly develop their skill set, we are living our core values and culture, as well as broadening the capabilities of our team members.
With the upcoming asbestos awareness events in November, we thought it a great opportunity to chat with Lucy, Asbestos Supervisor at our Envirolab Services Sydney laboratory. In discussing the dangers of asbestos, we also briefly chatted about some of her day-to-day responsibilities and her journey as a valued member of the team.
With formal qualifications in Chemical Engineering from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Lucy joined Envirolab Services Sydney in 2016 as an Asbestos Analyst, before being promoted in 2019 to her current position as Asbestos Supervisor. Currently responsible for the day-to-day management of the Asbestos department (section) within our Envirolab Sydney laboratory, Lucy assists a variety of clients with their asbestos sample testing requirements.
Recently voted in 2021 by staff at the Sydney lab as the recipient of an internal staff award for embodying Envirolab's family core values, Lucy enjoys spending her time outside the lab socialising with friends and pampering her gorgeous cat.
Left: Lucy at her desk, Envirolab Sydney. Right: Lucy's cat.
What do you enjoy most about working in your current position?
I enjoy the wonderful team within the Asbestos department. Our work is always interesting and comes with many challenges, which is what I thrive in.
We work with a wide range of clients and receive many different samples for testing in our NATA accredited lab in Sydney. There are always new discoveries. I’ll always remember finding naturally occurring asbestos or “NOA” in a rock sample, which is rare!
NOA can be found in some rocks, sediments and in soils and is not easily identified. In NSW, less than 1% of land is believed to contain NOA within 10 metres of the ground’s surface. So, it was certainly a great find for us.
In the Asbestos lab looking for asbestos in air samples as well as soils and other materials, such as fibro and vinyl tiles.
What have been some of the challenges in your role
One of the biggest challenges is the lack of asbestos awareness and the importance of increasing education about the dangers of asbestos in the workplace as well as in and around homes. Asbestos is a known carcinogen and exposure to asbestos fibres can cause cancer and other diseases, including mesothelioma and asbestosis.
Asbestos is an effective insulator where it was extensively used in Australian domestic or residential buildings built before the 1980s. Whether constructed of weatherboard, brick, fibro or with exterior cladding, asbestos can be found in kitchens, bathrooms, laundries, internal and external walls, ceilings, roofing, water tanks, insulation and floor coverings. It was not until late 2003 that a total ban on the manufacture, use, reuse, import, transport, storage or sale of all forms of asbestos came into force. However, asbestos continues to be used in some countries and despite being a prohibited import in Australia, there have been instances of imported goods containing asbestos.
Scientific testing of a sample by our NATA accredited testing laboratory can determine the presence of asbestos. We’ve had circumstances of clients knocking down a whole wall or even a building before eventually sending in a sample for testing. It’s worth considering to instead send a sample for testing with our lab first before deciding on an appropriate control measure as required by the circumstances – be it eliminating the risk by for instance removing the asbestos, substituting or isolating the risk, applying engineering controls, to name a few.
Mesothelioma Awareness Day, on September 26 reminds us how deaths from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases are almost entirely preventable. The upcoming awareness campaigns in November will also be an important time to raise awareness of how to work safely with asbestos and understanding your responsibilities under the law.
Understanding the Risks of Asbestos
Asbestos is still present in millions of homes, as well as public and commercial buildings across Australia. For business settings, the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth) (WHS Act) and WHS Regulations place obligations and legal duties on the ‘person who conducts a business or undertaking’ (PCBU), officers and workers to make sure workplaces are safe. The PCBU has responsibilities around asbestos removal licensing and for asbestos notifications. Government authorities, including Safe Work Australia as well as trade authorities regularly publish guidelines, reports and advice relating to asbestos.
However, as construction practices have moved on, fewer and fewer people may completely understand its implications. Similarly, homeowners may not be aware that they may be exposed to asbestos when conducting any DIY projects in the walls, ceilings and even the floors of their home. In some cases, asbestos-containing materials can still be left undisturbed and simply marked if they don't pose a risk.
Due to its prevalence, it's still very important that people are aware of the dangers it poses. Organisations and events are engaged in advocacy work and providing information on the dangers of asbestos. Events such as Mesothelioma Awareness Day (September 26) and both National Asbestos Awareness Week and National Asbestos Month in November, help provide a reminder and increase awareness that educate the public about the dangers of asbestos exposure.
National Asbestos Awareness Week
(22 - 28 November)
This year, the campaign asks Australians to: Think Twice About Asbestos.
The campaign challenges complacency by reminding home renovators and tradespeople that the danger of asbestos is far from over. Particularly because more people have more time for DIY projects during the COVID pandemic, it’s important to be aware of the dangers.
Further information is available at www.asbestossafety.gov.au.
National Asbestos Month
(1 - 30 November)
November is National Asbestos Awareness Month and combined with abestos.awareness.com.au, the annual event aims to educate about the dangers of asbestos and how best to manage it.
During Asbestos Awareness Month, you can host a ‘Blue Lamington Drive’ to raise awareness of asbestos in homes and help raise vital funds for the Asbestos Disease Research Institute and Support Groups by visiting: www.bluelamington.com.
Testing for Asbestos
Do you think you have asbestos in your home or business premises? Perhaps you are not sure about a substance in your building or DIY project?
With NATA accreditation and the support of a highly experienced team, Envirolab Services can provide laboratory testing of air, soil, water as well as a range of other materials, such as fibro and vinyl tiles. Fast turnarounds are available to meet your project requirements.
Contact us now to learn more about our asbestos testing services or even how to properly perform an asbestos test.