A boat sales and servicing business in New Zealand’s Nelson district has been fined $108,000 after the company has failed in its responsibility to ensure the health and safety of its workers undertaking demolition work in Motueka.
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 Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) rules carry a penalty of a maximum fine of $500,000.
The company has been involved in the demolition work at its premises between March of 2017 and August 2018. Bays Boating director David Thorn sought a quote for asbestos removal from Trafalgar Painting Company in March of 2017. All samples that were taken from the building exterior tested positive for chrysotile asbestos. While a quote of $20,734.25 was provided, the removal work wasn’t completed.
The next year, Bays contacted the company again, and the quote had increased to $40,182.13 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 of $23,540.90 for asbestos removal of the roofing sheets was submitted and the work was completed across July and August 2018.
Demolition work was undertaken following the asbestos removal by contractors who were not aware of the presence of asbestos. During the process, no safety measures were put in place to protect workers from asbestos-containing material. Workers were not given personal protective equipment. A gravel spot in the building had remained exposed for a duration of two months.
After an anonymous call, 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.”
Approximately 220 people die from asbestos-related illnesses each year in New Zealand. Workplace had also previously reported that asbestos is the single greatest cause of death from work-related diseases.
In premises where asbestos may be present, an asbestos removal control plan and safety measures must be implemented otherwise there’s a real risk for workers and members of the public that may be exposed to harmful asbestos fibres.
For more information on the safe removal of asbestos visit WorkSafe’s website https://worksafe.govt.nz/topic-and-industry/asbestos/.
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