The defendant held duties under s.446 (1) (a) of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 being a sole trader engaged to clean a roof at a residential property.
On 22 April 2017, the defendant carried out cleaning work on the roof using high-pressure water spray. The roof was a “Super 6” asbestos roof, also known as a Hardies Standard Corrugated asbestos cement roof comprising Asbestos Containing Material (ACM).
The cleaning activity was not controlled and as a result of using the high-pressure water blaster, airborne contamination in the form of dust and debris residue was present in and around the premises including neighbouring properties. The residents were concerned and called Council and in turn Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. Sample testing on debris and residue material confirmed asbestos fibres were present.
The defendant pleaded guilty in the Southport Magistrates Court on 8 October, 2018 to breaching s.446(1)(a) of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011, having failed to meet his work health and safety duties and was sentenced.
Magistrate Gary Finger fined the defendant $1000 and ordered professional and court costs totalling $842.10. He also made a s.239 order that the defendant not offend against the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for a period of 12 months, with a recognisance in the sum of $1,000 to be forfeited if convicted of an offence within this period. The court ordered that no conviction be recorded.
In reaching a decision, Magistrate Finger took into account the personal circumstances and remorse shown by the defendant but reminded him ignorance of the law is no excuse.
The court acknowledged the potential for harm when ACM is left uncontrolled due to actions such as using high pressure hosing plant.
In deciding penalty, his Honour took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach, co-operated with the investigation and entered a plea of guilty at the return of the summons.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
This incident falls within the scope of the Queensland Statewide Strategic Plan for the Safe Management of Asbestos in Queensland and the WHSQ Robust Asbestos Regulator Project specifically implemented to target asbestos related events.
When working in the roof restoration / cleaning, and painting industry where high pressure cleaning equipment is required and there is the potential to come across surfaces containing ACM / asbestos, duty holders must assess the risks posed from the potential to be exposed to airborne asbestos fibres, by complying with what is contained in the following legislation:
- Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (Chapter 8)
- How to manage and control asbestos in the workplace Code of Practice 2021 (PDF, 0.99 MB)
Other relevant Publications to assist with risk management include:
- The WHSQ fact sheet - Cleaning Asbestos Cement Roofs
- The Australian Asbestos Network fact sheet on cleaning and maintenance
- Asbestos – A guide for householders and the general public, February 2013. ISBN: 978-1-74241-736-3. Commonwealth of Australia 2013
- Dos and don'ts for working with asbestos (http://www.asbestos.vic.gov.au)
- Pressure cleaning of asbestos roofs – Safe Work NSW – Safety alert
- Date of offence:
- Gary Finger
- s.446(1)(a) Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011
- Decision date:
- $1,000 fine plus 12 month court ordered undertaking per s.239 with a recognizance of $1,000
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: