Coates Hire has developed a portable training module for the safe removal of asbestos

Coates Hire Registered Training Organisation (RTO) is tackling the challenge of asbestos removal and disposal, by taking its training to anywhere in the country.

Coates Hire RTO Manager, Paul McDonough, says the company has been developing National Units of Competency in asbestos-handling since 2017, and Coates Hire adheres to the New South Wales accreditation scheme, the only state that requires regulator-accreditation in asbestos training.

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral fibre which was heavily used in Australian houses for insulation and fire-retardation, until the mid-1980s. In 2003 asbestos-use was banned in Australia but around one-third of homes in Australia contain asbestos products.

If asbestos is disturbed – by cutting or breaking – it can release dust containing dangerous asbestos fibres. Breathing in the dust can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and Mesothelioma – a cancer in the lining of the lung.
McDonough says the safe handling of asbestos is a big issue and workers deserve to have the highest standards of training in how to deal with it safely.

“New South Wales is the only regulator-accredited system for asbestos training, so we use those standards and we take them around the country as National Units of Competency.”

He says the training covers four areas – Remove Friable Asbestos, Remove Non-Friable Asbestos, Supervise Asbestos Removal, and Asbestos Awareness – and it has been made mobile.

“Most asbestos training is done in a permanent installation, which is a mock-up of a sealed site in which asbestos has been identified. We have a unique mobile system, which is packed into a van, giving organisations in regional and remote locations the opportunity to train their workers in the safe handling of asbestos.”

The mobile module is run by expert trainers Mark Stevens and Shane Rice, and they have travelled as far as Weipa, on Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula, to deliver the modules, says McDonough.

The courses take between four hours (for the safety awareness course) and two days, for ‘Remove Friable Asbestos’, in a mobile sealed site and which contains an ‘escape module’ – the entry/exit portal in the sealed, pressurised tent around the site.

“We’re very aware of trades and workers being out there and encountering asbestos as a part of their everyday work,” says McDonough.

“The training package we’ve created with Mark and Shane covers basic awareness, all the way through to the full five-step removal and disposal process.”

He says the courses also focus on personal de-contamination protocols – which include showering and clothing-disposal – as well as the safe unfastening of asbestos, bagging and sealing it, and the safe use of extractors and vacuum bags.

“Asbestos is potentially dangerous for everyone, but the people working with it have the most exposure,” says McDonough.

“We’ve elected the only state-regulator accredited system for training in asbestos handling, and we are using those standards around the country, to help create safer work sites.”

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