Following two very recent incidents and several others in the last year, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has issued a repeat warning about the dangers of using high pressure water cleaners on asbestos roofs.
At worst, the outlawed practice could significantly impact the lives of friends, family and neighbours, while those who choose to engage in this dangerous practice also risk big fines and even bigger clean-up bills.
Brad Geinitz, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland’s Chief Advisor – Occupational Health and Hygiene, says the latest incidents on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane highlight the importance of reinforcing the asbestos safety message.
“Under Queensland laws you can’t use certain tools and work methods when you’re dealing with asbestos-containing materials as they can generate dangerous airborne fibres,” Mr Geinitz said.
“It’s illegal to use high pressure water spray equipment on these materials, including asbestos cement roofs, fences and walls.
“High pressure cleaners destroy the binding matrix of asbestos building products, releasing cement debris and asbestos fibres into the air, which then results in widespread contamination putting people’s health at risk.
“Business owners have a duty to ensure workers and others are not exposed to the risk of airborne asbestos.”
Asbestos is common throughout older homes, built before 1990 – and not just the roofs. Earlier this year, a local handyman was fined $3,000 for removing asbestos from a Paddington home without a licence, using a wrecking bar to remove the material in an uncontrolled manner, then illegally disposing of it.
A couple of years earlier, a house painter’s failure to protect his workers and the public from asbestos was labelled disgraceful by a Brisbane magistrate. The painter too was fined $3,000 for breaches of Queensland’s work safety laws by failing to ensure the health and safety of others and allowing a worker to use a high-pressure water spray on asbestos materials.
“This kind of cowboy behaviour is illegal, dangerous and utterly ridiculous,” Mr Geinitz said.
The painter’s thoughtless and unsafe actions cost over $48,000 to fix.
“That’s a huge whack for a small business and can potentially send them broke.”