Roofmasters Pty Ltd held duties under s.19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 being a roofing and waterproofing business. It was engaged to repair a commercial building's roof which sustained storm damage. The building contained asbestos. At the time the premises was leased to a business which sold and repaired tools. The quote for repairs included an allowance for working with asbestos. This included authorised suits, gloves and masks for workers, plastic fabrication frame to catch debris from asbestos and disposal of all waste at an approved centre. A safe work method statement identifying the asbestos hazard and planned controls had been prepared.
Workers from the defendant attended site on two occasions. Those workers had not been advised of the presence of asbestos nor were they provided with the safe work method statement. None of the workers was trained in identifying asbestos or its safe handling. No PPE was used and powered screw guns were used.
Quantities of white dust and other contaminated waste were created by the works. Some of the work was performed on a weekend and on another occasion when the business was open to the public. Roofmasters Pty Ltd workers, staff from the business and members of the public were exposed and made complaints. Statutory Notices were issued by Workplace Health and Safety to clean up the site.
The business leasing the premises ceased operating to the public for over two months whilst remediation works were undertaken. Some of their tools could not be properly cleaned and were discarded. The tool store and the owners of the building expended considerable sums of money rectifying the damage.
Roofmasters Pty Ltd went into voluntary administration following the issue of a complaint and summons. The sentencing proceeded ex parte pursuant to section 142A of the Justices Act 1886.
Acting Magistrate Robert Walker convicted and fined the defendant $100,000 and ordered professional costs of $1000.
In reaching a decision, the Magistrate considered the failure of the defendant to implement any controls on site either for its workers or others a serious breach of the Act. He was satisfied that the actions of the defendant exposed individuals including its own workers to potentially serious illness. In deciding penalty, Magistrate Walker took into account that general deterrence was a paramount consideration. He also noted the delay in proceedings, particularly where the company went into voluntary administration following the institution of the prosecution.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When working in the building repairs and maintenance industry where there is exposure to risks from disturbed asbestos, duty holders should apply a risk management approach to ensure the selection of suitable control measures for its workers and others.
Risk management involves identifying the hazards, evaluating the consequences and likelihood of harm that may result from the hazard, deciding and implementing control measures to prevent or minimise the level of the risk from the hazard and monitoring the effectiveness of the control measures to ensure they remain working correctly. When deciding and implementing control measures associated with the risk of exposure to asbestos, obligation holders should consider the principles set out in Codes of Practice on How to safely remove asbestos 2011 and How to manage and control asbestos in the workplace 2011.
- Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011
- How to safely remove asbestos code of practice 2021 (PDF, 2.22 MB)
- How to manage and control asbestos in the workplace code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.99 MB)
- Roofmasters Pty Ltd
- Date of offence:
- Brisbane Magistrates Court
- Mr Robert Walker (Acting)
- s.32 Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- $100 000 fine
- Maximum Penalty:
- $1 500 000
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: