ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe is banging his shoe on the table to attract the attention of the local building industry and they way they handle asbestos:
“I am extremely concerned at the cavalier attitude to the handling of asbestos by a small number of builders,” Mr McCabe said.
“While the majority of people in the building industry understand only too well the dangers associated with dealing with asbestos, and the care that must be taken when handling it, a small number are ignoring the risks.
“I can only assume that these people are putting financial gain in front of their legal and moral responsibilities. Unfortunately, they don’t just put themselves at risk when they do so. Their workers, other tradespeople within the industry and even members of the public are all put at risk in some of these situations.
Mr McCabe has pointed out that there are very strong sanctions available to a regulator such as WorkSafe when breaches of the legislation are proven.
“I will not hesitate to refer such matters to the Director of Public Prosecution and ask that the courts be encouraged to impose substantial penalties in such cases,” Mr McCabe said.
“WorkSafe is already investigating several matters which could lead to prosecution through the courts and I have asked our inspectors to pass these most recent incidents to our Investigations Unit as well.
“If you work in the building industry then there is a strong likelihood that at some stage you will encounter situations where asbestos will need to be handled. Under ACT law such material must be handled by people with appropriate qualifications and licences. Putting the health and safety of members of our community at risk by taking shortcuts, be that in the interests of saving money or through general carelessness, will simply not be tolerated.
“I would also like to remind everybody that it is unlawful in the ACT to handle any quantity of asbestos unless you are licensed, or in a trade, and meet the strict legislative requirements. Members of the public are prohibited from handling any amount of asbestos and must engage a licensed removalist or face significant health risks and prosecution.