Don’t Ignore Asbestos Risks when Renovating

We have spoken about the issue of asbestos exposure during renovation work on numerous occasions however there are still people that are ignoring the risks that this deadly fibre presents to human health. The most recently reported case involves a British businessman who was fined for allowing asbestos to spread in a building that he owned.

Everyone should know by now that exposure to asbestos can be lethal especially in Oz where the number of deaths due to exposure to asbestos and the subsequent contracting of diseases such as mesothelioma continue to soar.

A British court recently heard how a businessman allowed asbestos to spread in an industrial building that he owned and did not employ licenced contractors to remove asbestos containing materials.

The businessman, Peter Rees is the owner of a business unit and was selling the business to another company when the incident occurred in September 2012.

The court heard that inspectors found clear failings with the businessman’s management of the harmful material. The company that was supposed to purchase the unit commissioned an asbestos survey which revealed the presence of a large amount of asbestos insulation board (AIB).

The businessman failed to employ a qualified and licenced asbestos removal contractor but rather engaged a general contractor which resulted in asbestos dust being spread around the building.

The licenced contractor hired by the purchasing company raised a complaint and a clean-up operation was ordered.

Even in Australia there is a requirement for qualified and licenced asbestos removal specialists to be brought in to safely remove and dump asbestos.

It is important that builders are aware of the risks to workers, homeowners and the buildings occupants especially when renovation work is being undertaken, including any asbestos risks to avoid episodes like this. These types of incidents and failure on the part of companies and even home owners unnecessarily threaten the health and safety of workers on site and become even more costly as they result in a delay in work and possibly fines.

Sites where renovation work is being undertaken are the biggest risk to workers in terms of asbestos contamination. This is because in the past many building materials were made with asbestos to make them more durable. Even though the use of the substance in building materials has been banned for decades, during renovation certain asbestos containing materials can become disturbed, releasing harmful asbestos fibers into the air to be inhaled by people. Over time serious and life threatening illnesses can be developed including asbestosis and mesothelioma.

It was extremely fortunate the company purchasing the property had the good sense to hire someone to inspect the place before purchasing it, because if they hadn’t, lives could have been placed at risk, as HSE inspector Chris Wilcox explains:

asbestosdebris1Mr Rees’ failure to use a qualified and licensed company to remove the asbestos led to contamination inside the building. Fortunately, HSE was made aware of the incident before it was reoccupied by the new owners.

Anyone who owns or has control of non-domestic premises has a legal duty to manage the risk of asbestos in their buildings. When asbestos is removed, it must be done by someone who is trained and competent to do the work.”