ACT Builder in Hot Water after Exposing Family to Asbestos

A builder in The ACT may face prosecution for exposing a family to potentially deadly asbestos fibres, according to WorkSafe ACT who are currently investigating the incident.

The findings of a WorkSafe investigation will determine whether the builder will face prosecution after the builder’s workers disturbed asbestos containing materials while renovating the family’s bathroom. The family who was occupying the house at the time were unaware that they were being placed at risk until they were alerted by a neighbour. The young family also have 2 young children that were also exposed.

This post from OHSPolicy.com.au explains what happened:

worksafe-actThe exposure happened when the builder used an angle grinder to cut through asbestos sheeting and asbestos fibres spread through the house. The family were not aware of the danger but were warned by a neighbour who then called WorkSafe.

The business licence of the builder could be withdrawn if the ACT government finds that the employees of the builder worked with the asbestos without permission.

Source: http://ohspolicy.com.au/builder-facing-prosecution-over-asbestos-exposure/

This incident although isolated, reflects badly on the entire building industry. That is why ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe has called for the introduction of on the spot fines (of up to $5000) for all builders that are guilty of disposing of asbestos illegally. This incident in particular is an example of the kind of potentially fatal breaches of Work Health and Safety Act, which according to The Commissioner warrants serious action.

As the post on OHSPolicy.com.au goes on to explain asbestos cannot just be dumped by builders like they would other materials,

A spokesperson for the ACT Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate stated that all work with asbestos must be completed by people that have the appropriate licence, with an active building approval and an asbestos control plan in place which was not the case with the builder at the centre of the investigation

Read the full article at http://ohspolicy.com.au/builder-facing-prosecution-over-asbestos-exposure/

Builders have a responsibility to their workers, clients and the community to ensure that they are not placing them at risk of asbestos exposure and most importantly that they are disposing of asbestos in a safe and legal manner because once asbestos fibres are breathed in, they may get trapped in the lungs and remain there for a long time. Over time, these fibres can accumulate and cause scarring and inflammation, which can affect breathing and lead to serious health problems leading to death.

Studies have shown that exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma which is a relatively rare cancer of the thin membranes that line the chest and abdomen.

Although rare, mesothelioma is the most common form of cancer associated with asbestos exposure and statistics show that Australia has the highest number of people suffering from Mesothelioma in the world.  In addition to lung cancer and mesothelioma, some studies have suggested an association between asbestos exposure and gastrointestinal and colorectal cancers, as well as an elevated risk for cancers of the throat, kidney, oesophagus and gallbladder.

In addition to Mesothelioma asbestos exposure can cause asbestosis. This is an inflammatory disease affecting the lungs that can result in a number of symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath and permanent lung damage.

Now in addition to facing prosecution builders could also face on-the-spot fines in WorkSafe Commissioner, Mark McCabe gets his way.

 

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WorkSafe Encourages young workers to speak up at work

WorkSafe recently revealed an awareness campaign urging young workers to speak up at work. The campaign was motivated by the work related injuries of 2 young people in Victoria.

The campaign entitled “Not Sure Ask” has been described as a “graphic and confronting public awareness campaign” by the organisation and will incorporate television, radio, online advertising as well as social media.The television ads will be screened over the next month and has the support of universities and TAFEs across the state.

The campaign is aimed at young workers between the ages of 15-24 in particular because these have been identified as the most at risk and the strategy of the campaign is to encourage them to be more vocal if they have any uncertainties about how to carry out a task, use certain equipment, chemicals or handle machinery.

The advertising campaign will highlight the importance of that split second decision to not speak up which ends up have serious even fatal consequences for young workers in particular. Young workers have been known to be shy when it comes to speaking up about safety concerns or uncertainties on a work site. This may be due to a fear of victimisation, unfamiliarity with the workplace and people there or just immaturity but whatever the reason, keeping quiet about safety can result in death.

Read what WorkSafeNews.com.au posted about the campaign:

“Victoria is acknowledged as having the safest workplaces for young workers in the nation. And yet, almost 15,000 young workers have been seriously injured over the past five years,” Mr Rich-Phillips said.

“It’s a tragedy that so many young people at the very start of their working lives are still being injured and our statistics show that there are around 3000 workers aged under 25 injured each year in Victorian workplaces.

“That is why we believe campaigns like this are really important to help us drive home the message to young workers that it never hurts to ask and demonstrate to them that there can be life-long consequences of not speaking up.”

WorkCover Chief Executive Denise Cosgrove said there were many reasons why young workers were reluctant to speak about up safety.

“Our research tells us that many young workers don’t want to appear stupid or incapable in front of colleagues or supervisors, or felt too insecure to ask while others felt overwhelmed in a new and unfamiliar environment, or didn’t want to bother their busy manager,” she said.

“That’s why it’s essential employers and supervisors not only provide appropriate supervision and training but create a workplace where young workers feel comfortable about speaking up.”

Read more: http://www.worksafenews.com.au/component/k2/item/327-encouraging-young-workers-to-speak-up-at-work.html

Although the campaign focuses on the actions of employees and encouraging young workers to speak out, employers hiring young, apprentice workers also have a role to play. They must recognise that these workers are at a higher risk of being injured especially in high risk industries such as the construction sector. They need to be aware that young workers may require extra training and should be supervised especially when engaging in high risk tasks until they can demonstrate competency to work independently. It is also vital that employers encourage an atmosphere of openness and good communication with employees to facilitate open dialogue among employees and management to ensure good safety practices.

For more construction safety blog posts visit:

http://constructionsafetyblog.wordpress.com/

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