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Asbestos on-the-spot fine 262600

Event number 262600
Date of incident 02 October 2018
Incident location (suburb) Moranbah, Queensland 4744
Incident description

A sole trader maintenance business was engaged by a second party business who in turn was engaged by the owners of a newly purchased domestic house to renovate the house. Part of the work involved the removal of sections of external wall cladding for the purpose of fitting an external wall mounted air-conditioner. An assumption was made by the sole trader maintenance business that there was no asbestos within the cladding.

The sole trader, assisted by a worker, proceeded to cut three small square cavities out of the asbestos containing material (ACM) wall cladding for an air-conditioner to be installed. The work was being conducted using a power saw fitted with (water) dust suppression, but clouds of dust were still observed emitting from the work and small pieces of ACM cladding were left on the ground in the immediate work area.

Investigation outcomes
  • The types of ACM at this pre-1990 property was very common in building materials used to construct buildings of this era and therefore reasonably foreseeable and likely to be an ACM.
  • A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must, before carrying out asbestos-related work, ensure that analysis of a sample is undertaken to determine if asbestos or ACM is present, or assume asbestos or ACM is present and implement relevant safe work methods.
  • The sole trader PCBU co-operated and assisted inspectors throughout the investigation.
  • Following the incident, the sole trader PCBU remediated the site in a timely manner at a cost of approximately $7000.
  • The sole trader PCBU had no previous work health and safety convictions.
Enforcement action taken

Three non-disturbance notices, a prohibition notice and an improvement notice were issued. The improvement notice required the PCBU to make safe the property by engaging a licenced A class asbestos removalist to contain and remove the ACM debris.

In consideration of the circumstances, it was decided that further appropriate enforcement action was to:

  • issue an infringement notice to the sole trader PCBU under the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011:
    • s446(3) – carrying out a prohibited activity namely, the use of a power tool on ACM without controlling airborne asbestos – $432.00.