Risky demolition practices results in fine
Owners of Wellington’s Settlement Building were fined $24,000 today after the employees of the demolition contractor they engaged were exposed to asbestos fibres and live electricity while working on the inner city site in January last year.
The Wellington District Court heard that Willis Street Parking Limited, a subsidiary company of the Chow Group Limited, engaged Concrete Drilling and Cutting (1992) to demolish two buildings. Concrete Drilling and Cutting (1992) Limited in turn engaged a subcontractor C&M Transport Limited. Employees of both the contractor and subcontractor were exposed to hazards.
Department of Labour (now the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) Southern General Manager Jean Martin said that the electricity had not been disconnected prior to demolition and testing identified that there was asbestos in the building.
“Although no one was injured, Willis Street Parking Limited did not take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees of the engaged contractor and subcontractor during the demolition of the site.”
“Having live electricity in a building being demolished is an obvious hazard and the potential for harm is significant. Being exposed to asbestos fibres is also a serious health hazard and while the contractors were lucky not be harmed at the time, their safety was put at risk which is totally unacceptable.”
“Demolition work by its very nature can be risky, but there are things that can be done to make it as safe as possible. The Department has Best Practice Guidelines for Demolition on its website which all demolition companies and employees should be aware of and understand,” says Ms Martin.
Also available on the Department’s website is A Principal’s Guide to Contracting which outlines the duties for principals to contracts.
Concrete Drilling and Cutting (1992) was sentenced under the HSE Act in December and fined $20,000 for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of their employee.
C&M Transport, the company that subsequently carried out the demolition work has pleaded not guilty to one charge under the HSE Act.
Notes to Editor
- Willis Street Parking Limited was convicted on one charge under Section 18(1)(a) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. This states:
- Every principal shall take all practicable steps to ensure that no employee of a contractor or subcontractor is harmed while doing any work (other than residential work) that the contractor was engaged to do.
- The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 is available online.
- A Principal’s Guide to Contracting is available online.
- The Best Practice Guidelines for Demolition in New Zealand are available online.