From 4 April 2018, the transitional savings provisions in the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016 will end, and PBCUs (Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking) must comply with the final suite of its requirements. These regulations address the particular health risk that asbestos poses in the workplace. The 4 April instalment will mean that property managers, landlords and bodies corporate must take action to comply.

The regulations apply to all PCBUs that manage or control a workplace. The Regulations, and Worksafe New Zealand in practice, take a broad-brush approach to what qualifies as a PCBU and workplace. This means that property managers, landlords and bodies corporate are PCBUs.

From 4 April, PCBUs will be required to have an asbestos management plan if they know or ought to know that there is a risk of asbestos, or if asbestos is likely to be in the workplace from time-to-time. Practically speaking, this means you cannot assume that there is no asbestos present. You can either assume there is asbestos and put in place a management plan or contract a surveyor to identify any asbestos. If asbestos is discovered, the management plan can be more targeted.

Management plans must be in writing. There are specific requirements about what must be included in these, such as how decisions will be made about managing the asbestos. It must also be reviewed at certain intervals and be disclosed in prescribed situations e.g. to any PCBU, such as a plumber, that is or may be doing work at the workplace.

If there are multiple PCBUs, Worksafe expects that there might be division of labour. One PCBU may take the lead on having asbestos found and dealt with. However, each will be liable under the Regulations; even if agreements are made in which one takes charge on discovering and ridding the building of asbestos. This means that each PBCU will need a management plan.

When negotiating with other PCBUs about who ought to take the lead, Worksafe advises that “the extent of the duty to manage asbestos-related health and safety risks depends on each PCBUs ability to influence and control the matter”. Nevertheless, Worksafe suggests that all PCBUs involved should:

  1. Discuss the work being done;
  2. Agree on the level of influence each PCBU has; and
  3. Agree on who will do what, and monitor progress.

Landlords, property managers and bodies corporate (and indeed all PCBUs) need to consider their asbestos obligations and likely prepare a management plan by 4 April 2018.  

It is important to take advice on how to properly manage your obligations under the asbestos regulations, particularly if you are dealing with multiple PCBUs as this can make compliance more complicated.

If you have any questions about these matters, please contact our Wellington lawyers Matthew Whimp,  email, phone (04) 495 8909, or Carolyn Heaton, email, phone (04) 495 8908, from our Wellington office.