A ruling in the Southport Magistrates Court recently has highlighted the dangers of cleaning asbestos roofs and that safety standards must be followed. A company which operates childcare centres was fined $3,500 for a breach of section 446 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011.
This follows an investigation which found the company instructed a maintenance officer to clean the roof of a childcare centre on the Gold Coast. The defendant knew the roof was asbestos cement and that using a high-pressure hose to clean it was not in accordance with the How to manage and control asbestos in the workplace Code of Practice or its asbestos management plan. Regardless, on 21 January 2018, the worker hosed the roof with a high-pressure water device. This caused dust and debris in and around the centre, which had to be closed for a week.
Magistrate Jane Bentley accepted the serious risks associated with asbestos contamination and that general deterrence is an important sentencing principle. She noted the offence was aggravated as the defendant knew the roof contained asbestos and allowed it to be cleaned by an employee using a high-pressure cleaner.
The magistrate took into account the maximum penalty, an early guilty plea, the defendant’s cooperation with the Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation and the fact that the defendant closed the centre, paid for decontamination and replacement of the roof. Once notified of the incident, the defendant immediately took steps to protect children and staff from the effects of the contamination - measures costing about $22,000.