Fine for "disgraceful" disregard of asbestos safety

Wednesday, 05 May, 2021

Fine for "disgraceful" disregard of asbestos safety

A house painter has been fined $3000 after failing to protect his workers and the public from asbestos. The defendant pleaded guilty to three charges related to breaches of Queensland’s workplace safety laws. The defendant failed to ensure the health and safety of others, and directed or allowed a worker to use a high-pressure water spray on asbestos or asbestos-containing material.

The defendant was penalised for not complying with an improvement notice, with the $48,291.09 cost to clean and make safe the property and its neighbours left to the Queensland Government. The defendant breached the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 while painting a Norman Park house, which he was aware contained asbestos. The painter did not hold a current QBCC trade contractor’s licence after failing to renew.

On 21 February 2019, witnesses saw a worker cleaning the roof using water, with a subsequent ‘muddy splotchy’ substance adhering to a neighbour’s external wall. In response to complaints, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland inspectors found that the roof was corrugated asbestos cement sheeting. Testing revealed asbestos contamination caused by high-pressure water spray blasting of the roof.

The defendant received an improvement notice to make the property safe and ensure all asbestos was contained, labelled and disposed of, which did not happen. In sentencing, Magistrate Michael Quinn acknowledged the seriousness of the offence, particularly as the safety of the community was put at risk. Magistrate Quinn was of the view that the defendant’s conduct was close to a wilful disregard of his duties and responsibilities.

Magistrate Quinn also noted that the defendant received $6000 for the work, failed to repay any portion of it, and subsequently claimed he was impecunious. This behaviour was an aggravating factor, as it demonstrated the defendant’s disregard for public safety. Magistrate Quinn considered the difficulties the defendant suffered as a migrant and in speaking English.

During sentencing, the magistrate took into account the defendant’s difficult financial circumstances and the fact that he was paying a $6500 fine related to carrying out work without the appropriate licence. Magistrate Quinn said the defendant’s conduct was “disgraceful” and imposed a $3000 fine and costs of $1000. No conviction was recorded.

Image credit: © Britten

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