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Asbestos and insurance: How to protect yourself

The relationship between asbestos and insurance is a complicated one.

Think about it: symptoms of asbestos-related disease can take up to 40 years after exposure to appear. There’s no clear relationship between level of exposure and risk of disease: diseases like mesothelioma can bypass people who worked with asbestos all their lives, while affecting others who had relatively fleeting contact with asbestos.

These factors can make it difficult to pinpoint the original source of asbestos exposure. But even if the source is known, who does the victim make a claim against? The asbestos manufacturer? The employer or building owner where the asbestos was located? The asbestos removal contractor who failed to take precautions?

As an employer, these complexities make it difficult to predict what liabilities you might have in the future. But there are still some things you can do to protect yourself in the present.

Your legal obligations: Asbestos surveys, registers and management plans

The first thing you can do to protect yourself is to make sure that you’re complying with your legal obligations around asbestos. That means that if your premises were built before 1 December 2003, you need an asbestos survey to determine whether they contain any asbestos.

If asbestos is found, you need to create an asbestos register and management plan.

Airsafe can help you with asbestos surveys, registers and management plans – just call us on (02) 9555 9034.

Asbestos removal contractors must have the right insurance

The second thing you can do to protect yourself is make sure that any contractors you engage to remove asbestos have the right insurance. By the right insurance, we mean public liability cover that specifically covers asbestos.

A recent article in Insurance and Risk Professional magazine points out that most standard Australian public liability policies don’t cover asbestos. This can mean damages aren’t payable even in relatively trivial circumstances if asbestos is involved:

Take the example of a roofing contractor undertaking an asbestos re-roof. If a piece of asbestos falls from the roof and dints the insured’s car, many standard liability policies won’t cover the damage to the car because the material hitting the car is asbestos.

The trouble with engaging a supplier who’s not adequately covered is that, in the game of musical chairs where an injured party needs to find someone to make a claim against, you may end up with the liability yourself.

So you should always make sure that any asbestos removal contractors have public liability cover that explicitly includes asbestos. Not only does that protect you against possible claims; you can also be confident that before providing the cover, the insurance company will have checked out the contractor to make sure they have the necessary experience and qualifications to handle asbestos.

Need a recommendation for an asbestos removal contractor in Sydney or NSW? Call Airsafe on (02) 9555 9034: we only recommend reputable contractors with the necessary insurance cover.

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