Two South Australian asbestos professionals have had their licences suspended in separate incidents in a week. The first was an asbestos assessor who had their license suspended immediately, while the other was a removalist and demolition contractor who had their class B license suspended for three months.
In SA, an asbestos assessor license allows the person to conduct air monitoring before and during licenced asbestos removal work, carry out clearance inspections and issue clearance certificates when the asbestos removal work has been finalised.
In this instance, the assessor should have taken reasonable care to carry out the required work safely and competently and was found to have issued the clearance certificate without the appropriate inspection. It was also found that they had failed to conduct air monitoring at the sites appropriately.
Safe Work SA noted that the assessor had a history of poor compliance and had previously had their licence suspended in 2020 for three months over similar compliance breaches.
In the other incident, Safe Work SA had been notified of a serious injury where a worker had fallen through asbestos roof sheeting. During the subsequent investigation, inspectors identified a number of asbestos legislation breaches and statutory notices were issued to the demolition contractor.
Upon filing those breaches and notices, the SafeWork SA compliance history database revealed that the contractor had repeatedly failed to ensure that work or activities being authorised by the license holder were carried out safely and competently.
The safety regulator considered these previous infractions before the action was taken, as well as the company’s inability to protect workers and the public from asbestos exposure.
Per SafeWork SA, the company also:
- Allowed a worker who wears a respirator to have facial hair that prevents an effective seal to minimise exposure to airborne asbestos fibres.
- Failed to fit test a worker who wears a respirator to minimise exposure to airborne asbestos fibres.
- On two occasions, allowed a worker to undertake licence asbestos removal work without the worker holding certification in relation to the specified VET course for class B asbestos removal work.
- Allowed a worker to undertake asbestos removal work without wearing appropriate personal protective equipment suitable for asbestos conditions.
- Failed to ensure that health monitoring was provided to a worker carrying out licensed asbestos removal work at a workplace and who is at risk of exposure to asbestos when carrying out the work.
- Failed to ensure when the licensed asbestos removal work was completed, a clearance inspection of the asbestos removal area at the workplace was carried out by an independent licensed asbestos assessor or independent competent person.
- Failed to provide information on the health risks and health effects associated with exposure, and the need for, and details of, health monitoring to an asbestos licensed asbestos removal worker before the person was engaged to carry out the work.
SafeWork SA Acting Executive Director Glenn Farrell explained that asbestos licence holders have a duty to comply with the legislative requirements of their licence.
“SafeWork SA has given both licence holders sufficient opportunities to change their behaviour and work practices, yet they have continually failed to meet their obligations as asbestos licence holders,” he said.
“SafeWork SA’s role is to ensure that the community can be confident in South Australia’s asbestos licensing regime by taking action to cancel or suspend an asbestos removal licence when there is evidence a licence holder has not demonstrated safe and competent asbestos removal practices.
“These failures require such sanctions.”