Almost 50 years after New Zealand businesses working in and around construction were first made aware of the risks of asbestos, removal of the cancer causing material is still not being managed effectively, says WorkSafe New Zealand.
“Asbestos is New Zealand’s number one killer in the workplace with around 170 people dying every year from asbestos-related diseases,” says WorkSafe deputy general manager, Investigations and Specialist Services, Simon Humphries.
WorkSafe says those working in construction need to be more diligent when it comes to managing asbestos removal, because it is not just “yourself” at risk.
“Asbestos fibres can travel thousands of kilometres from a site where removalwork is undertaken under certain weather conditions.
“Negligence is unacceptable and there is no excuse for putting the lives of others in and around your workplace at risk.”
WorkSafe’s comments follow the sentencing of John Carstairs Robertson in New Plymouth District Court in May, on health and safety charges relating to unsafe removal of asbestos.
In February 2017, John began work on a New Plymouth property to remove asbestos containing material from a shed.
His conduct departed significantly from current asbestos regulations and included the use of hand tools to break up asbestos containing material, no use of masks or proper protective clothing, and no management of airborne asbestos particles.
WorkSafe’s investigation found that Mr Robertson had failed to manage the risk of asbestos appropriately, despite training and a prior improvement notice. WorkSafe was not notified of the class B removal work.
“No asbestos removal plan was prepared and Mr Roberston’s haphazard removal work not only put himself and a worker at risk, but the occupier and visitors to the property, and those in the neighbouring area,” Simon said.
- A fine of $35,000 was imposed
- Reparation of $2580.59 was ordered for site remediation
- Costs of $1297.50 were ordered.