Negligent asbestos removal puts others at risk

WorkSafe is reminding businesses and property owners that a negligent approach to removing asbestos does not only put you at risk, but also those around you.

The message comes after Topham Holding Limited, a small farming business on the outskirts of Timaru, was sentenced today in the Timaru District Court.

During the demolition of an old chicken shed in 2016, Topham Holding’s sole Director removed sheeting which contained asbestos, without first engaging a competent person to ensure the asbestos was removed. This was despite advice from WorkSafe to Topham Holding a year earlier that there would need to be close management of any asbestos removal.

The asbestos removal did not meet the requirements of asbestos regulations.

WorkSafe’s Chief Inspector Investigations Keith Stewart said “Topham Holding was aware of the presence of asbestos and was negligent in ignoring the well-known risks of asbestos and our advice about the demolition process.”

Mesothelioma, the cancer caused by asbestos, is the origin of one in five cancer deaths with an occupational link. Respiratory illness such as asbestosis makes up 20% of work-related deaths.

In 2010, mesothelioma accounted for 100 occupational deaths in New Zealand.

“No-one is exempt from managing the risk of asbestos appropriately. Asbestos management is not a job for a layperson – it is a job for a competent and trained professional. It’s not just about keeping you safe and healthy – but those around you as well”.

Notes:

  • Topham Holding Limited was convicted and fined $10,000
  • Topham Holding Limited was sentenced under the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016.
    • Being a PCBU with management or control of a workplace, or of a structure, failed to ensure so far as reasonably practicable, that the asbestos was removed before demolition commenced.
  • The maximum penalty was a fine not exceeding $50,000.

WorkSafe has lots of asbestos related guidance and an approved code of practice – including how to prepare asbestos management plans. 

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