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.
- Inspired Enterprises Limited (trading as Harrisons Carpet and Flooring Christchurch West) was sentenced at the Christchurch District Court on 16 February 2023
- Fine reduced to $23,375 on appeal
- IEL was charged under sections 36(2), 49(1) and 49(2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015
- Being a PCBU having a duty to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of other persons is not put at risk from work carried out as part of refurbishment works in the kitchen/dining area at [withheld address] Broomfield, Christchurch did fail to comply with that duty.
- The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $500,000
- Lawrence Gregory Gannaway (trading as Simply Floors) was sentenced at the Christchurch District Court on 16 February 2023
- A fine of $1100 was imposed
- Simply Floors was charged under Regulation 26 of the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016
- Being a PCBU who was carrying out refurbishment of a home on or about 21 June 2021 failed to ensure that all asbestos that was likely to be disturbed by the refurbishment is identified; and so far as is reasonably practicable, that the asbestos was removed before the refurbishment was commenced.
- The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $10,000