9 May 2018

Ainslie Shops demolition rekindled by ACT Work Safety Commissioner

| Tim Benson
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Asbestos removal at Ainslie Shops in 2017 (photo Tim Benson)

Asbestos removal at Ainslie Shops in 2017. Photo: Tim Benson.

Work will commence this week on the replacement of roof tiles and other roof upgrades at the Ainslie Shops, after loose-fill asbestos insulation was removed from the roof space and upstairs area at shop one, at the popular local shopping complex last year.

The new works will include an environmental clean of the roof spaces above Ainslie Shops three and five at the same time as the roof is replaced.

When announcing the start of this work, ACT Work Safety Commissioner Greg Jones also said, “In the longer term, full remediation (demolition) of the premises will be required,” and “Long-term demolition is the only answer”.

Director of the family company that owns the shops three and five, Manuel Xyrakis, said, “My most important consideration is the safety of the public and the owners and workers at the Ainslie Shops.”

He was concerned to hear that the ACT Work Safety Commissioner had stated in a media release that ‘In the longer term, full remediation (demolition) of the premises will be required’.

‘There is no way in the world we would be doing this remediation work if we knew the building would need to be demolished,’ Mr Xyrakis said.

The full cost of the remediation work is upwards of $200,000 and is being paid for by the property owners without any contribution from government.

“As a commercial premise, responsibility for these works and the safety of the building rests with the building owner, however, WorkSafe ACT will continue its on-going monitoring role as well as having an active presence to ensure these works are undertaken safely,” Commissioner Jones said.

Mr Jones said that he understood the owners had sourced tiles for the roof work which met heritage considerations.

Licensed asbestos assessors and removalists will be undertaking works based on a comprehensive plan forwarded to WorkSafe ACT.

The upper level shops in the north building will be closed while the roof replacement works take place. A small number of car parking spaces will also be closed for the duration of the works.

“WorkSafe ACT has supported the building owners in their communication with tenants and neighbouring residents around the works. Inspectors will regularly check the safety of works over the course of the upgrade,” Mr Jones said.

The RiotACT has seen the information provided to tenants and there is no mention that ‘Long term, demolition is the only answer’.

Mr Jones confirmed with The RiotACT that the end solution for the asbestos issues at Ainslie Shops was demolition and that he couldn’t specify how long the current remediation activities would hold that off.

Mr Jones said he couldn’t say whether demolition would be ‘three, five, seven or 20 years’ away.

Work is expected to take about four weeks, weather permitting.

Do you think there should be a commercial asbestos program in the ACT along the lines of the Mr Fluffy program for residential properties?

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To those saying there is no difference between a residence and a private home a couple of points.

1. For the most part in a private home the risk was not living there but the risk of you doing work/renovations that disturbs it and the risk to unsuspecting tradies.

2. Whilst in a commercial premises the risk is the same in a commercial premises there can be far greater controls put in place to mitigate that risk. And that is the difference. For example a commercial owner would need to advise tradies doing work of the asbestos and risk heavy fines if they didn’t, but a home owner would have the same level of accountability.

That said if I am not mistaken private Mr Fluffy residents had the option of staying in their own homes with some onerous controls put in place. That also mitigates the risk.

And that is what it is about assessing and mitigating risk. For the most part knock it down is the best solution for all.

Ainslie shoppers do not want any demolition. There is no risk to health.

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