Fines over asbestos removal cost company $108,000

Fines over asbestos removal cost company $108,000

A boat sales and servicing business in New Zealand’s Nelson district has been fined $108,000 after they exposed their workers to asbestos during demolition work.

Bays Boating Ltd was sentenced in court on charges relating to the breaches of Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) legislation, brought against them by WorkSafe, who described their actions as “unacceptable”. A breach of the legislation carries a maximum fine of $500,000.

It was heard in court that the company engaged in demolition work at its premises between March of 2017 and August 2018. The business sought a quote for asbestos removal services from a local company in March of 2017 and while a quote was provided, the removal work wasn’t completed.

The next year, Bays contacted the company again, and the quote had increased for the removal of asbestos on roofing and exterior cladding. An email submitted in court showed Bays director David Thorn protesting the quoted price: “How could this price possibly be double? That is unbelievable! Please can you just do the roof?”.

Subsequently, a third quote was submitted and the work was completed across July and August.

Demolition work was undertaken following the asbestos removal by contractors who were not aware of the presence of asbestos. During that process, no controls were put in place to protect workers or manage the spread of asbestos-containing material. Workers were not given personal protective equipment.

After an anonymous tip, WorkSafe attended the site in September of 2018 and following a site inspection and testing process, chrysotile asbestos was confirmed at the site.

The contaminated material was removed and the site was given clearance in November 2018.

In court, Judge David Ruth explained that it was clear that the company director made a “conscious decision” to only remove a section of the asbestos-contaminated material.

“There were persons put at risk in my view, while fortunately, no harm has occurred that must be regarded as a matter of happenstance rather than as a result of any action by the defendant.”

WorkSafe principal advisor for asbestos Robert Birse explained that the decision to cut corners meant that workers were exposed to asbestos-containing material, despite the company being aware of its presence.

“The company should have ensured there was no asbestos in the building by engaging a competent licensed person to complete the safe removal before demolition work commenced,” Birse said.

“The dangers of asbestos are well known by those in the industry and the wider public. It is unacceptable that Bays Boating Limited allowed a building containing asbestos to be demolished without having the asbestos removed first.”

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