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QLD: handyman fined after removing asbestos with wrecking bar

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.
Date: 
Thursday, 28 April, 2022 - 12:45
Category: 
Incidents & prosecutions
Location: 
Queensland

A local handyman in Queensland has been fined $3,000 for removing 36.8 square metres of asbestos from a Paddington home without holding a licence, using a wrecking bar to remove the asbestos in an uncontrolled manner and for disposing of the asbestos in an unsafe manner.

The man pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court to three breaches of Queensland’s work health and safety laws. These included unlicensed asbestos removal and failing to ensure asbestos waste was contained and labelled before it was removed.

He was also found guilty of using implements, including a wrecking bar, that resulted in dangerous airborne asbestos being released into the atmosphere.

The court heard that in July 2019 the defendant responded to an Airtasker advertisement for asbestos removal at the Paddington house, claiming to be a qualified asbestos removalist.

Over three days, he and his assistant removed almost 37 square metres of asbestos-containing material. At no time did the handyman hold a licence permitting him to do so.

The court heard a Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation found the defendant disposed of the asbestos in an uncontained and unlabelled manner.

The asbestos waste was loaded directly into the back of a ute and was not sealed or contained in any way. Six samples taken from the remnants of the internal walls of the Paddington residence all contained non-friable asbestos.

In sentencing, Magistrate Suzette Coates took into account the defendant’s early guilty plea, otherwise good character with no previous work health and safety convictions, and his capacity to pay a fine.

Magistrate Coates balanced the mitigating factors with state laws designed to reduce the risks associated with asbestos, acknowledging the well-documented nature of those risks, dating back to the James Hardie case.

The man was fined $3000 plus court and asbestos testing costs of $365, and no conviction was recorded.