Company and directors fined $16,000 for asbestos containing material house demolition

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Thursday, 26 November, 2020 - 09:30
Incidents & prosecutions

A company in Queensland and its two directors were fined $16,000 for not properly demolishing a house which had asbestos containing material (ACM).

The specialist demolition company was found guilty of six charges under the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 relating to improper removal of ACM.

The defendant company was contracted to remove a Toowoomba house which had asbestos containing material that should have been appropriately removed prior to any demolition work, but this did not occur.

Instead, an excavator was used to demolish the dwelling and ACM was simply pushed into piles across the site.

Limited effort was made to remove the asbestos or put in control measures against inadvertent dispersal of ACM.

The excavator should not have been used to demolish the structure whilst it contained the ACM.

The specialist company did not put in place ‘asbestos removal’ signage on the property perimeter as required to alert people about the potentially hazardous works being undertaken, nor was an adequate asbestos removal control plan put in place before removal work commenced.

The company was also required to inform property owners close to the site that ACM works were happening. Again, this wasn’t done.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland inspectors who attended site found ACM was not adequately contained and labelled as required before its removal from the site.

In sentencing, Magistrate Kay Ryan noted the risks from asbestos and the illnesses that may result are well documented, as are the methods for safe handling and removal of that material.

The defendant was a licensed asbestos removalist and well aware of the safe methods for removal of the material. These were simply not followed.

Magistrate Ryan added if rules for the safe removal of asbestos are not followed then the effects can be absolutely devasting for people who acquire a related illness.

This could also mean the two directors who carried out the work. Her Honour stressed there was a heavy onus on all three defendants (the company and its two directors) to keep this worksite safe.

Magistrate Ryan took into account the defendant company’s timely guilty plea, that it had no previous convictions for any work health and safety breach and had engaged a contractor (at its own cost) to remediate the contaminated work site.

Her Honour also noted the company was no longer engaged in demolition or asbestos removal works and was moving towards deregistration.

The company was fined $8,000, plus courts costs of almost $1,100. No conviction was recorded.

The two company directors, who carried out demolition works, were each fined $4,000.

Both individual defendants advised the court they had been affected financially and health-wise by the proceedings and are no longer involved in this type of work.

No convictions were recorded against the directors.