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Asbestos on-the-spot fine 263500

Event number 263500
Date of incident 23 October 2018
Incident location (suburb) Northgate, Queensland
Incident description

The person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU), a house painter and decorator, was engaged by the owner to paint the exterior of a domestic house. In preparation to paint, the PCBU used high pressure water spray equipment to clean the exterior wall. A section of the exterior wall had material that contained asbestos.

An investigation by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland identified that this activity generated asbestos contaminated dust and debris (ACD) on the relevant and adjoining property.

Investigation outcomes

Although the event itself was a prohibited practice (using high pressure equipment on an asbestos containing material (ACM)), and is considered a serious breach in terms of the potential to expose person/s to a risk of illness, the extent to which the prohibited practice was performed caused minimal potential risk as:

  • the ACD was minor in quantity, consisted mainly of paint flakes, and the asbestos fibres were bound to the paint flakes
  • the ACD was primarily confined to the primary and adjoining property
  • potential exposure to a risk to persons following the activity was minimised because the ACD was promptly cleaned up by a licensed asbestos removalist.
  • The PCBU co-operated and assisted inspector throughout the investigation
  • Any potential risk was minimised and therefore considered low
  • The PCBU had no previous work health and safety (WHS) convictions.
  • The PCBU paid for the $900 cost of the clean-up of the ACD.
  • As the PCBU had to attend the site on the day of the clean-up by the licensed asbestos removalist, he lost a full day of potential income as he was unable to contract to other work.
Enforcement action taken

An improvement notice was issued to the PCBU under s484(1) of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (the WHS Regulation) to contain and remove the ACD, which was promptly complied with.

A prohibition notice was issued to the PCBU under s420 of the WHS Regulation to stop any activity that may cause the ACD to be disturbed, which was complied with.

In consideration of the circumstances and the mitigating features, it was decided that the most appropriate enforcement action was to issue an infringement notice to the PCBU under the WHS Regulation:

  • s446(1) – allowing a worker to carry out a prohibited activity namely, the use of high pressure water spray on an ACM / asbestos roof – $432.00.