Demand for asbestos removalists grows with infrastructure boom

The reshaping of the Australian energy sector coupled with increasing infrastructure and commercial construction works has heightened the demand for skilled asbestos removal workers.

As reported by the Financial Review, John Flavel, member of the South Australian Government’s asbestos removal committee, says that the demand for asbestos removal experts is growing to match the rate of major industrial site closures.[1]

Flavel estimates that the demand for these services has boosted the wages of supervisor-level workers up by 20 percent over the last year.

The notable wage increase is a combination of factors. The lack of workers with experience in hazardous materials is a key contributor, as is the increase of major infrastructure projects, such as Sydney’s new metro rail. According to Rider Levitt Bucknall (RLB)’s recently released 3rd Quarter 2018 Oceanic Report, major infrastructure and commercial growth is booming Australia-wide.[2]

“There’s a lot of old coal-fired power stations being decommissioned.

They’re full of asbestos. There’s a lot of industrial sites being decommissioned – manufacturing is closing down – a lot of manufacturing sites we’re shutting down contain asbestos in some shape or form. It’s going to continue,” Flavel says.

According to AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator), by 2040 most coal-operating power stations are expected to have reached the end of their lifespan.[3] AEMO does not expect new coal-operating power stations to appear in their wake, instead they suggest that by this time, non-coal power solutions should have had enough time to establish themselves to fully take the reins. For demolition experts and asbestos removalists, this means a growing demand for their services.

While this transition to non-coal power seems like a far-off future, changes are coming in thick and fast right now. In 2017, Australia saw the decommissioning of the Hazelwood and Port Augusta power stations, each requiring a slew of construction industry expects to safely handle asbestos removal and associated processes.

While the construction boom partnered with the reshaping of the energy sector means generous pay packets for those skilled in handling hazardous materials, it also means growing costs for construction companies. A bittersweet moment for construction in Australia.

The Financial Review discussed this transition with RLB’s Oceania chairman, Ewen McDonald, who claims that the demand for a larger construction workforce may place extra demands on business owners.[4]

“Shortages of skilled labour and rising material costs are adding pressure on costs across the country,”

The Financial Review continued, to report that this claim is supported by manager of A&G Formworkers, Alex Angelucci. Angelucci suggests that pay rates for formworkers in Sydney have increased by 6-10% over the past year.

This is an exciting prospect for the Australian construction industry. This environment is a perfect entry point to begin in the field, or equally, now is the ideal time to polish those skills to climb the ranks. The coming years are looking bright for asbestos removalists and construction workers alike in Australia.

The air is thick with opportunity.

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Written by Amelia Fynes-Clinton for Globe Group.


[1] M Bleby, ‘Are you an experienced asbestos removal supervisor? Your pay’s up 20pc’, The Financial Review, 11 July 2018, available from https://www.afr.com/real-estate/are-you-an-experienced-asbestos-removal-supervisor-your-pays-up-20pc-20180711-h12j1x, viewed 16 July 2018.

[2] Rider Levitt Bucknall, ‘RBL Oceania Construction Market Intelligence Report Q3 2018’, Rider Levitt Bucknall, July 2018, https://assets.rlb.com/production/2018/07/16044546/RLB-Oceania-Report_Q3_20181.pdfviewed 16 July 2018.

[3] Australian Energy Market Operator, ‘Integrated System Plan For the National Electricity Market’, Australian Energy Market Operator, July 2018, https://www.aemo.com.au/-/media/Files/Electricity/NEM/Planning_and_Forecasting/ISP/2018/Integrated-System-Plan-2018_final.pdf, viewed 18 July 2018.

[4] M Bleby, ‘RLB says construction costs to rise: formwork in Sydney, demolition in Adelaide’, The Financial Review, 12 July 2018, available from https://www.afr.com/real-estate/rlb-says-construction-costs-to-rise-formwork-in-sydney-demolition-in-adelaide-20180710-h12i5c, viewed 16 July 2018.