Fine for failing to test for asbestos
Peter Page, the manager of Apartment Renovation Company, has been fined $40,000 after he failed to test a substance for asbestos. Mr Page was obliged to have the textured ceilings tested for asbestos prior to commencing the work.
Mr Page was sentenced today in the Auckland District Court under Health and Safety in Employment (Asbestos) Regulations and the Health and Safety in Employment Act. Mr Page should have taken all practicable steps to ensure that, when it was necessary to know whether a substance was asbestos or not, the substance was appropriately tested.
Shane Harris was employed as a handyman by Peter Page to work on 10 units being renovated and painted at a Kingsway Avenue site. Eight of the units had textured ceilings.
Mr Harris started work on the site on 29 July 2013 and about two weeks later he first expressed his concerns about the ceilings to Mr Page. Because he did not test for asbestos before work started, Mr Page was then obliged to have the ceilings tested but did not. He told Mr Harris that the ceilings had been tested and they were not asbestos. This was not true. As a result up to 15 contractors were potentially exposed to the risk of asbestos for approximately 3 months. When Mr Harris became concerned that the advice he had received from the Mr Page was not correct, he took his own sample which tested positive for the presence of asbestos.
“It is recommended practice to treat any suspect material, like textured ceilings, as containing asbestos until test results prove otherwise,” says Brett Murray, General Manager High Hazards and Specialist Services. “Asbestos poses a risk if it is not properly contained, especially during building work where materials are cut or drilled.”
Peter Page had identified the textured ceilings before work started but he thought the ceilings were asbestos-free as they didn’t have sparkling material visible to the eye. “Asbestos is often mixed with other materials so it is virtually impossible to identify by eye,” says Brett Murray. “The only way to be certain that materials contain asbestos is to have them tested.
“While Mr Page now routinely tests for asbestos when working with textured ceilings, the regulations are clear. If you are alerted to the possibility of asbestos in any material, then you have to have that material tested.”
Asbestos has been a major focus for WorkSafe NZ over the past 12 months.
We have also launched a new website on asbestos aimed at helping homeowners and DIYers understand the risks involved with asbestos and how to manage them.
www.asbestosaware.co.nz was launched in Christchurch by the Combined Health and Environment Risks Programme Control Group made up of WorkSafe NZ, Environment Canterbury, Christchurch City Council, CERA, Canterbury DHB and Waimakariri District Council.