WorkSafe is reminding businesses and their customers of the very real risks that can exist when refurbishing, following a case of poorly handled flooring containing asbestos.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral containing strong fibres invisible to the eye. When asbestos is disturbed or removed, the fibres can become airborne and be inhaled, which can pose a significant health risk.
Inspired Enterprises Limited, trading as Harrisons Carpet and Flooring Christchurch West, was hired to replace the flooring in a house in the suburb of Broomfield in June 2021.
A subcontractor, Lawrence Gannaway (trading as Simply Floors) uncovered old vinyl and disturbed its backing during removal, then disposed of it in an unsafe way. Testing of the broken vinyl later returned a positive result for chrysotile asbestos.
Both Inspired Enterprises and its subcontractor Mr Gannaway have now been sentenced in the Christchurch District Court for health and safety failures. A WorkSafe investigation found neither identified at the outset that asbestos was likely to be disturbed. An asbestos management plan should have been in place but was not, and the customer’s quote made no mention of asbestos.
“This unfortunate incident shows how even well-known operators like a Harrisons franchisee can be caught out on the basics of asbestos safety,” says WorkSafe’s General Inspectorate head, Simon Humphries.
Buildings constructed or renovated before 2000 are likely to contain asbestos materials.
“It’s not OK to assume there is no risk and you are in the clear. Businesses have a duty to identify and manage risks associated with asbestos, and management plans are required for workplaces where asbestos or asbestos-containing material has been identified or is likely to be present. WorkSafe has comprehensive information on its website to help businesses and people understand the risks of asbestos and how to manage them,” says Simon Humphries.
Read more about managing asbestos
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