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Asbestos on-the-spot fine 241345

Event number 241345
Date of incident 11 April 2017
Incident location (suburb) Edge Hill 4870
Incident description

The PCBU used a 20t Doosan Excavator to demolish a residential structure owned by a friend. The residential structure was a highset 1940’s style chamfer board house constructed on 2m stumps with an iron roof. The areas likely to contain asbestos in the house were in the bathrooms and internal walls. The PCBU operated the excavator that had been dry hired from a local civil contracting company. The original plan was to use the excavator to move the vacant dwelling from its stumps and away from an adjoining property, but the structure became unstable and a decision was made to demolish instead. Demolition took approximately 45minutues. Complaints were made to WHSQ and the local council. Issues raised were that the demolition was done without any warning to persons in the vicinity of the building, with no controls to prevent exposure to airborne ACM or control the risk of flying debris.

Investigation outcomes
  • The excavator operator was deemed a PCBU and took instructions from the home owner to move and then demolish once the structure became unstable.
  • Although ACM was not identified and removed prior to demolition, the unstable nature of the dwelling may have prevented this to occur.
  • The risk was potentially higher to onlookers during the demolition process without any exclusion zones put in place.
  • The debris appears to have contained relativity minor quantities of bonded asbestos containing materials, and it was contained to the relevant property.
  • The owner of the property organised clean-up and risk mitigation straight away after the incident.
  • The excavator operator co-operated with the investigation to some extent.
  • The excavator operator had no prior convictions with WHSQ.
  • The long term personal friendship between the homeowner and the excavator operator, and the operator coming out of retirement to help.
  • The excavator operator made no attempt to further crush the demolished materials for ease of disposal.
  • Contamination was considered minor.
  • The asbestos risk was relatively low.
Enforcement action taken

In considering the circumstances and the mitigating features, it was decided that the most appropriate enforcement action was to issue infringement notices to the PCBU (excavator operator) under the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011:

  • s419(1) – carrying out prohibited work involving disturbing asbestos, namely using an excavator to move a house and subsequently demolishing it ($720), and
  • s446(3) for using an uncontrolled method, namely an excavator to demolish a dwelling containing ACM that has not captured or suppressed airborne asbestos safely ($432).