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January 2020

Workers unaware of asbestos threat

Workers unaware of asbestos threat

Worksafe Qld v Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads (2017)

Facts

Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads (the Company) is a major provider of transport infrastructure projects throughout Queensland, and is involved in the building and maintenance of bridges and roads. The Company was repairing a bridge that contained asbestos but had no documentation stating the bridge contained asbestos and no safety procedures or asbestos precautions in place. The workers were not informed of the asbestos and were instructed to use power drills on site, which created a lot of dust.

Judgment

The Magistrate described the workplace as an unacceptable and harsh work environment, and noted there was an absence of any identification, testing and safety plans for asbestos. Although the Company cooperated with the regulator and had spent a significant monetary amount on remedial work, the Court imposed a fine of $175,000 due to the seriousness of the potential life-threatening exposure that affected a number of workers.

Lessons

Asbestos continues to be a serious safety concern in Australia. This decision highlights the need for businesses to implement effective risk management strategies that address the risk of exposure to asbestos.

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