Company fined over asbestos in workplaces

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A Newburn company has been fined $5500 plus costs for failing to identify the presence and location of asbestos at one of its workplaces.

WA’s work safety laws require an asbestos register to be established in workplaces that may contain asbestos, and warning signage must also be placed at the areas containing asbestos.

SGS Australia Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that the presence and location of asbestos at the workplace was identified, and was fined in the Perth Magistrates Court last week.

SGS is a company that provides inspection, verification, testing and certification services, headquartered in Newburn and with another 70 other sites across Australia.

This court case involved the company’s premises at Railway Parade, Queens Park where geochemical services are undertaken.  SGS did not ensure that the presence and location of asbestos was identified at this site.

A WorkSafe inspection in June 2010 identified asbestos in various parts of the building, which was confirmed when SGS subsequently commissioned an expensive asbestos assessment..

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said today the case should serve as a reminder to all employers that the law requires identification of asbestos in workplaces.

“Unfortunately there is still a lot of asbestos in WA, and our workplace safety and health laws require that the presence and location of asbestos in workplaces is identified for everyone’s safety,” Mr McCulloch said.

“In this case, although the company did make some attempt to address the asbestos issue at its other workplaces, it did not ensure that information about asbestos at its workplaces was passed along to all relevant parties, including any outside contractors who worked at their sites.

“This is the first time WorkSafe has initiated prosecution action under this section of the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations, but it certainly will not be the last if employers do not ensure they fulfil their responsibilities in regard to asbestos.

“If a building may contain asbestos, everyone having any control has a responsibility to ensure that it is documented – from the employer, main contractor or self-employed person to the building owner or property manager.

“Information about the presence and location of asbestos also needs to be made available to anyone who enters that workplace so the relevant precautions can be taken.

“Asbestos products do not pose a risk to health if they are left undisturbed in buildings, however there is a serious risk of exposure to asbestos fibres if asbestos-containing materials are disturbed, unless basic safety precautions are followed.

“Unfortunately Australia has one of the highest rates of asbestos-related diseases in the world, and Western Australians have the sad legacy of Wittenoom to remind them of the potential hazards of asbestos.”

Further information on asbestos can be obtained by telephoning WorkSafe on 1300 307877 or on the website at www.worksafe.wa.gov.au.

Media contact: Caroline De Vaney 9327 8744 or 0408 927563 (media enquiries only)
caroline.devaney@commerce.wa.gov.au
Follow @WorkSafeWA on Twitter

WorkSafe
Media release
22 May 2014

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