Company fined $16K for unsafe demolition, asbestos removal
A specialist demolition company and its two directors has been fined $16,000 for not properly demolishing a house which had asbestos-containing material (ACM). The company was found guilty of six charges under the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011, relating to improper removal of ACM. The company was fined $8000, plus court costs of $1100, with no conviction recorded. The two company directors, who carried out the demolition works, were each fined $4000.
The demolition company was contracted to remove a Toowoomba house which had asbestos-containing material that should have been appropriately removed prior to any demolition work; however, that did not occur. Instead, an excavator was used to demolish the dwelling and ACM was pushed into piles across the site, with limited effort 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 while it contained the ACM. The specialist company did not use ‘asbestos removal’ signage on the property perimeter, as required to alert people about the potentially hazardous works being undertaken. Additionally, an adequate asbestos removal plan was not put in place before removal work commenced.
The company also failed to inform property owners close to the site that ACM works were happening. Workplace Health and Safety Queensland inspectors who attended the site found ACM was not adequately contained and labelled as required before its removal from the site. The defendant company was a licensed asbestos removalist and aware of the safe methods of handling and removal of asbestos; however, these methods were not followed.
In sentencing, Magistrate Kay Ryan noted that if the roles for the safe removal of asbestos are not followed, the effects can be devastating for people who acquire a related illness. Her Honour added that there was a heavy onus on all three defendants (the company and its two directors) to keep the worksite safe.
Magistrate Ryan considered the defendant company’s timely plea, that it had no previous convictions for any work health and safety breach, and that it had engaged a contractor (at its own cost) to remediate the contaminated worksite. The company was also no longer engaged in demolition or asbestos removal works and was moving towards deregistration. Both individual defendants advised the court that they had been affected financially and health wise.