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Asbestos is back the headlines again this month as two developers in Melbourne were charged $120,000 each for failing to properly secure asbestos-riddled waste at the site of a demolished inner-city pub and then for dumping it in the city’s north-west. The developers’ company was fined a further $300,000. Magistrate Richard Pithouse unleashed on the developers, saying he would have sent them to prison for “such a blatant breach” if the legislation allowed for it.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supported the magistrate’s decision. “The directors and company in this case have shown blatant disregard for the environment, for public health, for community,” said CEO Cathy Wilkinson. “It’s unacceptable and EPA Victoria puts on notice illegal dumpers… We don’t want asbestos uncontrolled in the environment.”

The historic former Carlton Inn was illegally demolished late in 2016. Three days later the EPA noted that debris on the site was likely to contain asbestos. Samples were taken and the asbestos finding was confirmed. Despite orders to adequately contain the debris, a pile of rubble from the site was found just days later at Cairnlea, opposite residential homes and just 350 m from a childcare centre. The remaining debris at the Carlton site was also not adequately managed.

As far as asbestos safety breaches go, it was an epic one. The attempt to abrogate responsibility by illegally dumping the debris elsewhere failed dramatically when a serial number on a brick in the pile identified it as having come from the pub site. Yes – that’s a massive fail all round from developers Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski. As the magistrate said: “I hope everyone knows your names.”

Needless to say, we’re pretty sure Shaqiri and Kutlesovski didn’t take part in any of our excellent asbestos training courses here at AlertForce! But you can. And not just to avoid fines (though that’s a good reason) but to ensure that you, your workers and the environment you’re operating in is safe from exposure to asbestos.

The best way to understand what is at stake when it comes to working around asbestos is through training. There is simply no room for a cavalier attitude or a careless approach to asbestos and our training courses demonstrate why steady, informed and prepared beats ad hoc, spontaneous and reckless every time.

Looking at the case above, we can give some examples as to what breaches were made and how training can prevent you from making errors when it comes to handling asbestos. As usual, you want to check your state or territory’s legislation to make sure you’re on top of your obligations (don’t worry – our training is nationally recognised) but generally speaking the requirements that apply to construction demolition work are outlined in the WHS Regulations and each state provides extra information of what is required when asbestos is involved. Here are a few key rules:

  • Asbestos should be removed as far as is practicably possible before demolition
  • Airborne asbestos fibres and dust must be minimised as much as possible
  • Soil scraping and excavation is required if the structure being demolished contains asbestos
  • An asbestos removal control plan (ARCP) must be prepared by a licenced asbestos removalist before any asbestos is removed
  • Asbestos removal must be carried out by those holding the appropriate A or B class license
  • Certain removal and demolition work must be reported to the appropriate Work Safe authority
  • Any workers involved in the project must be given appropriate training

Clearly, our dodgy developers in Melbourne didn’t abide by many – if any – of these rules. Believe us when we tell you that asbestos awareness, assessment and removal training costs a whole lot less that $300,000.

Asbestos awareness training will ensure that your workers are alert to the possible presence of asbestos, will know it when they see it, and will understand what safety precautions and notifications must be made. Our Class A, Class B and supervisor’s training will ensure that any asbestos or asbestos containing materials are removed according to the legislation and with minimal risk to workers, community and residents.

Demolitions are a hazardous business. Add asbestos to the mix and things get even trickier.  So get safe or get fined. Call us today to sort out your asbestos awareness, assessment and removal training.

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