Demolition company fined over asbestos work with no licensing or PPE

Demolition company fined over asbestos work with no licensing or PPE

A Melbourne demolition company has faced court to answer three charges of failing to provide a safe working environment over the alleged exposure of workers to asbestos during demolition works at a warehouse in Clayton South.

Nationwide Demolition appeared in court on March 1, and pleaded guilty to the three charges, which included failing to comply with the terms and conditions of its asbestos removal license, failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment (without risks to the health of employees) and for failing to ensure the general public were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

It was heard in court that the company had provided a quote to a Glen Waverley developer to demolish a warehouse in 2021, which they priced at $80,000, noted as “significantly lower” than other quotes provided.

The warehouse contained both friable and non-friable asbestos, which requires specific licensing and practices. The court heard that Hussein Abdullah, the director of the company, said that he held the correct licenses on several occasions but did not hold them. It was also heard that he failed to have a safety report and appropriate audit completed prior to commencing asbestos-related work.

Demolition was due to begin in August 2021. Prior to work commencing, Peter Clark, an occupational health and safety officer from the CFMEU attended the site and observed asbestos-containing materials. He took photos of the areas of concern at the site and spoke with the director, who told him he had the correct licenses and that he “had all the right clearances to remove the material.”

Mr Clark got in touch with WorkSafe following the inspection and several days later, four WorkSafe inspectors attended the site where Abdullah and one of his employees were undertaking excavation work. The inspectors ordered a stop to all demolition work and took material samples, all of which returned positive asbestos results.

It was heard in court that there were no appropriate decontamination facilities at the site, there were areas of asbestos-containing rubble uncovered, and workers were not wearing the required PPE. A report by an independent occupational hygienist found that the “likelihood of exposure was at or above the standard for both workers.”

Magistrate Steven Raleigh said that his aim was “to send a general deterrent messaged to the public. I’ve got friends with mesothelioma; it’s a shocking thing.”

The company was fined $9,000 and an additional $4,904 in costs.

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