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Asbestos clean-up proves costly

A construction company has been fined $4,500 for a workplace asbestos contamination, on top of paying a hefty $35,000 contribution towards the cost of the clean-up, despite no evidence that anyone was exposed to airborne asbestos fibres.

The construction company had been engaged to refurbish a North Queensland kindergarten in the school holidays. The renovation works required removal and disposal of existing ceiling tiles, vinyl flooring and external awning and removal of the internal kitchen and cabinets for reuse. Asbestos was not identified at any time, other than in the internal wall sheeting which was not being removed.

Three workers were engaged to perform the work, during which ceiling tiles were smashed and vinyl tiles which were glued to the floor were removed with a scraper. No protective equipment was worn by the workers and the demolished material was simply transported to the local dump without being wrapped or treated.

A council employee advised the workers the material which had been transported to the dump may have contained asbestos. After that, the remaining materials removed were wrapped in plastic and left on site for removal by council workers.

The site was not properly decontaminated, with asbestos dust on the floor being swept up, the veranda hosed and none of the workers’ clothing, vehicles or tools decontaminated. Testing of samples from the kindergarten and dump sites showed chrysotile asbestos present.

No-one appears to have been exposed to airborne asbestos fibres, but the defendant pleaded guilty in the Cairns Magistrates Court and was fined $4,500. The magistrate took into account that because of the request to complete the works during the school holidays, the company abbreviated its otherwise robust processes which normally would have insisted on the production of the asbestos register by the kindergarten's owner. The company made positive changes to its internal processes, meaning the chances of reoffending are highly unlikely. The magistrate also took into account the substantial contribution of $35,000 to decontamination costs by the company.

Further information

To manage the risks from airborne asbestos or asbestos contaminated dust or debris, consider:

Last updated
31 July 2018

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