ASBESTOS ABATEMENT DOWN UNDER
By George Hunt, Operations Manager
Corrective Service Industries – New South Wales, Australia
The Cessnock Correctional Centre in New South Wales, Australia has just completed a purpose-built industrial complex comprising of four 2,000m2 buildings housing commercial facilities that afford inmates real world employment opportunities. Supported with dedicated training programs to ensure inmates are prepared for post release employment one such venture, our maintenance of portable classrooms, certainly enjoys a challenge.
While the world wrestles with the health hazards associated with asbestos, Corrective
Service Industries at Cessnock Correctional Centre is at the forefront of handling this material in a safe controlled environment via the “clean room.” The “clean room” is part of our maintenance facility for maintaining portable classrooms.
The maintenance of portable school class rooms is a long term commercial venture employing inmates in a large variety of trade skills. These classrooms contain bonded asbestos and while our procedures comply with legislative safety requirements, we also deemed it necessary to go beyond this and develop a self contained environment that would provide the maximum protection for all workers. This controlled environment, developed with the input from staff and inmates, was recently a finalist in the New South Wales Workcover Safe Work Awards in recognition of the contribution to workplace safety.
Only inmates and staff
who are licensed can participate in this function and to understand
how they become licensed, we need to start at the beginning – when an inmate arrives at the centre.
This is a working Correctional Centre so when an inmate arrives at Cessnock they must complete and pass an examination for an occupational and safety program before commencing employment. We deem it mandatory that all workers understand their role in workplace safety. Once employed they will be given an induction into the business unit and then commence a comprehensive training program aligned to their vocation. At this time inmates can enroll in vocational courses that include traineeships in a variety of trades, licenses for cranes, forklifts and other heavy equipment, electrical tag and testing, as well as bonded asbestos removal.
Having undertaken and passed the test for the removal and handling of bonded-asbestos
the now licensed inmate becomes part of an elite team responsible for making safe the
classrooms that are transported around the state to meet the accommodation needs of our school children.
Removal of the hazardous material commences with the risk assessment; this is required for each building. Having addressed all the criteria, notification is sent to the authorities advising of intended removal and the prescribed methods to be used. The “clean room” is then prepared for the incoming building which is rolled into the facility for the work to begin. Inmates enter through the decontamination room and change into their prescribed personal protective equipment (PPE). The “clean room” is then closed and sealed and the negative air pressure system is activated. Only after these steps are made can the removal of the bonded asbestos begin. On completion of the removal process the area is thoroughly cleaned using a micro-filtered apparatus.
The room is then checked by the overseer and signed o as compliant. The inmates proceed to the decontamination room where they remove their PPE, place it in a hazardous waste facility for disposal, shower and change into their clothing. The “clean room” has air monitoring stations that validate the safety of the process. Sta ff and inmates take comfort from the fact that we have provided an approved safe working environment for addressing a hazardous task. The bonded asbestos license and the experienced gained by inmates in our facility has prepared them for post-release employment in a growing vocational field.