Asbestos risks and insurance

The relationship between insurance and asbestos is complex, which makes it difficult to determine liability. However, it is no secret that asbestos is a very real menace especially in Australia. And as risk management professionals you need to ensure that your clients are aware of the peril and are complying with their legal obligations around asbestos.

Insurance broker and Director of Webber Insurance Services Daniel Webber says, “It’s important for clients to be aware that most home and business policies will exclude claims associated with asbestos.”

He notes that there are insurance options available but it really depends on the needs of the business or individual.

Despite its prominence in Australian news, very few people realise just how common the use of asbestos once was. Given its wide availability and low cost, the fibre was once found in several everyday household goods. But insurance for asbestos exposure isn’t very common.

Webber says, “Asbestos insurance is a niche product so it’s important for brokers to provide their clients with education and risk management.” Asbestos prevalence is extensive, and Webber gives the example of a well-known health club in Adelaide having an issue where customers were potentially exposed to asbestos fibres from the roof.

It’s been reported that the property owner engaged a contractor to clean the roof which was done with a pressure washer.  As a result, Environment Protection Authority (EPA) had to be notified and the health club shut down.  Which meant losses to the business, property owner, customers and potentially surrounding businesses and homes.

Webber advises brokers to tell their clients to be wary that it’s out there and remind them not to bury their heads in the sand. Demolition companies and asbestos removalist usually have the biggest exposure, however, their policies are generally tailored for asbestos cover.

Webber says, “It’s often other trades that incidentally come into contact and are not aware their insurance excludes this.  As with the health club issue, it’s highly likely (almost a certainty) that their insurance will not cover the losses associated with the business closure.”

November is National Asbestos Month and resources are available at asbestosawareness.com.au for brokers to share with clients.