Clear disregard for safety proves expensive


Sub-optimal demolition work of three residential buildings placed workers and neighbours at significant risk of asbestos exposure and landed the home owner with a large clean-up bill, WorkSafe says.

The dangers of asbestos have long been recognised, which is why the extensive failings of P&M Demolition Specialists Ltd and its sole director, Jade Ngaha, are so disturbing, the health and safety regulator explains.

WorkSafe’s investigation found that P&M Demolition Specialists and Ngaha had been told of asbestos-containing material on site.

Despite this, there was neither a risk assessment nor a comprehensive survey to establish the location, condition and quantity of asbestos containing material.

Instead the demolition work proceeded with no safety controls in place, exposing workers and neighbours to asbestos fibres and asbestos containing dust.

Asbestos dust was found well beyond the boundary of the worksite.

“It’s beyond belief that Mr Ngaha did not follow recognised industry practice which includes testing for the presence of asbestos given he had been told that it was present,” says WorkSafe Chief Inspector Keith Stewart. “Nor did he ensure his employees had the right skills or equipment for the task.”

Asbestos is very dangerous and the importance of having specialist knowledge and help to manage its removal is critical to reduce risk, he adds.

“Safety is paramount when it comes to asbestos and that is why the regulations are so detailed.”

Asbestos is the single biggest cause of deaths from work-related disease. On average about 170 people die every year from asbestos-related diseases.

Breathing in airborne asbestos fibres is a serious risk to health – once the fibres are breathed in, they lodge in the lungs and may cause asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma.

P&M Demolition Specialists pleaded guilty to three charges under Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 for failing to take all practicable steps to protect its workers and others.

Sole director Jade Ngaha also plead guilty to three charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 for his part in P&M Demolition Specialists’ failings.

P&M Demolition Specialists were charged under S6, S16, S18 and S50 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, which carry a maximum fine of $250,000.

Ngaha was charged under S6, S16, S18, S50 and S56 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, which provide a maximum fine of $250,000.

Due to the financial position of the company and Ngaha, the North Shore District Court did not impose a fine.

However, reparations of $36,000 were ordered in addition to the $13,000 already paid towards the clean-up costs.