Canberra Builder Accused of Exposing Family to Asbestos

A builder in Canberra has been accused of exposing a family to asbestos, according to reports by the Canberratimes.com.au website. The builder is now the subject of an investigation by WorkSafe ACT which could lead to his prosecution.

The ACT government could also withdraw the business’ licence if they find that the company’s employees worked with asbestos without permission.

The incident has led ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe to call for the introduction of spot fines for builders who do not dispose of asbestos properly. McCabe is seeking a $5000 spot-fine to be issued to any guilty builders. Commissioner McCabe said the breaches to the Work Health and Safety Act could result in the case ending in court.

He went on to say, according to the article on CanberraTimes.com.au:

He said the seriousness of the breaches of the Work Health and Safety Act meant the case could end up in court.

LI-art-nar-asbestos-builder-20130612200402287857-300x0”Given the level of exposure to the family I think the public would demand prosecution if a breach of health and safety laws is proven in this case,” Mr McCabe said.

The new fines will be considered as part of the ACT government’s review of the Dangerous Substances Act, which is likely to be tabled in spring, with the new fine schedule to take effect from January 1.

The family whose home was contaminated says it remains out-of-pocket and shaken by the affair, which will see them require ongoing, annual medical check-ups for life-threatening illnesses.

Read more: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/asbestos-builder-faces-prosecution-20130612-2o50j.html#ixzz2W1cU22hq

The incident occurred earlier this year when a young couple in Kambah hired the builder to renovate their bathroom but instead had to vacate their home when the builder’s staff used angle grinders to cut through asbestos sheeting in the house.

At the time of the renovations, the family was occupying the house and the wife cleaned the asbestos fibres from surfaces in the living area and kitchen, unaware that they were dangerous to her and the entire family. Luckily a neighbour alerted the family and called WorkSafe.

Mr McCabe confirmed that the company involved was being probed by WorkSafe’s serious incidents investigations team and if the builder is found to have breached the Work Health and Safety Act the consequences are likely to be severe.  As McCabe pointed out serious breaches of the act may carry large fines and possibly jail time for the company’s directors.

The post went on to state:

A spokesman for the ACT Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate said all work with asbestos had to undertaken by a licensed person with active building approval and an asbestos control plan, and the company had none of those at the time of the renovation.

The spokesperson said the investigation was ongoing and ”a decision on the status of the nominee is awaiting the outcome of further investigations and advice from WorkSafe ACT”.

Read more: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/asbestos-builder-faces-prosecution-20130612-2o50j.html#ixzz2W1cU22hq

The builder declined to comment on the matter. The family has since hired another builder to renovate their bathroom. Sadly the family has lost about 120 personal items which were contaminated and had to be destroyed. They also lost out financially because the builder refused to refund the family’s deposit or provide them with compensation.

 

Thousands of Construction Workers Rally in the Name of Workplace Safety

Construction site safety in Melbourne has become a matter of contention recently which has pitted authorities and large construction firms against workers and unions, culminating in a massive rally in the Melbourne CBD.

Melbourne has some of the worst construction safety records in the country which is one of the reasons why thousands of Melbourne workers marched on Tuesday in solidarity for safety in the workplace.

According to an article on HeraldSun.com.au about 5-10 thousand workers rallied in the city centre in the name of safety.

The march which started outside the Trades Hall began with a minute of silence while workers faced the site in Swanston Street where 3 people died in a recent wall collapse on March 28th . The crowd spanned 10 city blocks and included over 5000 people.

Construction workers and their supporters marched through Melbourne’s CBD on Tuesday morning in a union-led rally to protest against what they believe is lax safety standards by building giant Grocon. The protestors then moved to the Grocon-managed Emporium building site also the site of a controversial union-led blockade last year.

The march has been condemned by Premier Denis Napthine who lashed out at the construction union as being “beneath contempt” for staging a rally at the site of last month’s CBD wall tragedy which he said would insult those who had lost their lives there.

The article on HeraldSun.com.au went on to explain:

CFMEU marchSpeaking this afternoon, Mr Napthine said the rally would cause pain for relatives of the wall collapse victims.”It is absolutely disgusting, it’s totally unacceptable and it’s an insult to people who lost their lives,” he said.

Workers held a minute’s silence in respect of the three people killed in the Swanston St wall collapse.

Picture: Alex Coppel

“They are using this terrible tragedy for union political purposes. Dr Napthine said Victoria has the safest workplaces in Australia.”We work hard to make sure all our workplaces are safe, and WorkSafe certainly do an excellent job,” he said.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) Victorian Secretary John Setka said the “minute’s silence” was a mark of respect for the young victims.

“If we were having a rally and we didn’t go there and have a minute’s silence we’d probably be accused of being insensitive.”Mr Setka attacked the Victorian Government, saying Mr Napthine had failed to announce a hardline stance against Grocon, who were responsible for the site where the March tragedy happened.

“We’re not going to let them sweep this under the carpet,” he said to thousands of construction industry workers outside WorkSafe’s headquarters.

Read more http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/thousands-of-construction-workers-to-rally-at-scene-of-ugly-cbd-riots-last-year/story-fncynkc6-1226631870347

Setka went on to condemn WorkSafe for being too quick to clean up the site after the accident and said the authority had a lot to answer for.

Mr Setka also claimed that crane workers on the Myer Emporium site were using their phones as torches following the death of crane driver Bill Ramsey earlier this year. His family members were also among the marchers in the rally.

 

Man Dies at Perth Construction Depot

According to a report on the Yahoo News website an employee at a construction depot in Perth died recently after becoming caught in machinery. WorkSafe is investigating the incident which claimed the life of a worker.

Read what was reported about the incident by Yahoo News:

Update, 12.20pm: Worksafe is investigating the death of an employee at a construction depot in Perth’s eastern suburbs last night.

An ambulance was called to BGC office and depot on Bushmead Road in Hazelmere about 8pm.

They could not revive the worker, who died at the scene.

It is believed the man died after he became caught in machinery.

BGC today released a statement saying the company was gravely concerned about the incident and was carrying out a full investigation.

The statement said the company was deeply saddened by the man’s death and offered its condolences to his family, friends and work colleagues.

“We are providing whatever assistance is necessary to the family and work colleagues at this difficult time,” it said.

Source: http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/breaking/16768820/man-dies-at-construction-depot/

In the construction industry in particular, approximately 100 construction site workers deaths occur every year related to plant and machinery. That is why only trained and certified workers who are in possession of the correct licence should be allowed to operate certain equipment. Another important factor is supervision because operation of machinery can be such a dangerous task.

The actual cause of the incident above has not yet been discovered but most instances where workers are caught in machinery occur because machines are not properly guarded.

Every workplace using machinery needs to implement the appropriate guarding. Employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of their workers on site and according to the law part of that protection involves providing appropriate machine guards. These need not be elaborate or complicated and should not interfere with productivity in any way but they must not be overlooked.

Employers should look at the safety characteristics of machines when purchasing new equipment and try to get suppliers and manufacturers to fit guards to your specifications.

They should also attempt to identify the hazards or events that could give rise to a potential injury or fatality including the types of injury or illness they can cause such as lacerations, crushed fingers or limbs caused through inadequate machine guarding.

Employers should conduct a separate risk assessment for each machine and any associated system of work used with that machine to determine the risk the operation of these machines can pose to workers, including those involved in its operation and those in the vicinity.  (Note:  Risk assessments are covered in the White Card Online course in considerable detail. ) 

Consultation between employers and employees is an important step in evaluating the effectiveness of implementation of control measures such as machine guarding. Employers input is valuable and should not be ignored.

If an employer has determined that a hazard cannot be eliminated or replaced with a less hazardous option, the next preferred measure is to use an engineering control.  Examples of engineering controls that can be introduced to minimise the risk of machine injury is introducing guarding, using enclosures, automating a process.

Related articles:

https://www.whitecardonline.com.au/blog/white-card-online/white-card-construction-induction-card-risk-management/

https://www.whitecardonline.com.au/blog/my-category/white-card-update-managing-excavation-risks/