Demolition work on three Auckland residential buildings left asbestos dust well beyond the boundary of the work-site, and neighbours and workers at risk of asbestos poisoning, a court has found.
The owners were also left with the clean-up bill.
A WorkSafe NZ investigation into P&M Demolition Specialists found the director, Jade Ngaha, was told of asbestos-containing material on site.
Despite this, he neither conducted a risk assessment nor surveyed the site to see where it was or how much asbestos was on the property.
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Ngaha plead guilty to three charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act, which carry a maximum fine of $250,000.
P&M Demolition Specialists pleaded guilty to three charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act as well, but due to the financial position of the company and Ngaha, the North Shore District Court did not impose a fine.
Reparations of $36,000 were ordered in addition to the $13,000 already paid towards the clean-up costs.
WorkSafe chief inspector Keith Stewart said: “It’s beyond belief that Mr Ngaha did not follow recognised industry practice which includes testing for the presence of asbestos given he had been told that it was present.
“Nor did he ensure his employees had the right skills or equipment for the task.”
Asbestos is the single biggest cause of deaths from work-related disease.
Breathing in airborne asbestos fibres lodges them in the lungs and may cause potentially terminal diseases, asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma.
On average, about 170 people die a year of asbestos-related diseases.
“Asbestos is very dangerous and the importance of having specialist knowledge and help to manage its removal is critical to reduce risk,” said Stewart.
“Safety is paramount when it comes to asbestos and that is why the regulations are so detailed.”
The company could not be contacted.