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.
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.
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”.
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.