The defendant local council owns and operates a waste transfer station (WTS) at Burges Road, Allora. On 24 January 2020, the defendant pleaded guilty and was sentenced in the Warwick Magistrates Court to breaching ss. 425(1) and 429(2) of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011.
The defendant's policy was that it did not accept asbestos waste at the WTS, however, asbestos had been identified at the site over the years preceding the charged conduct. Previous incidents included asbestos identified in the landfill and green waste in 2010, asbestos-containing 'Telstra pits' found dumped on-site in 2011 and a contractor identifying asbestos during a scheduled mulching of wood and green waste materials in 2016.
The defendant entered into a contract with a contractor to undertake supervision of the WTS from 28 July 2017 to 30 June 2019. On 16 August 2018, the acting manager of Environmental Services for the defendant contacted Work Health and Safety Queensland's (WHSQ's) asbestos unit, regarding fragments that tested positive for asbestos found in soil suspected by WHSQ to originally have been obtained as green waste from the WTS.
WHSQ Inspectors attended the WTS on 17 August 2018 and commenced an investigation. On 21 August 2018, they took samples from twelve locations on-site, including from mulch being loaded onto a member of the public's trailer, from the metal recycling pile, the concrete recycling pile, the wood and the timber recycling pile, the mulch pile and the woodchip pile. All samples tested positive for asbestos. On that date, the Work Health and Safety coordinator for the defendant admitted that it did not have either an asbestos register or an asbestos management plan in place for the WTS.
In deciding the penalty, Magistrate Manthey acknowledged the defendant had some relevant safety systems in place even before the date of the charges and had engaged a contractor with significant experience.
His Honour noted he took into consideration the defendant's willingness to fully cooperate with the investigation, its early guilty plea and that it had no previous convictions.
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Sections 425(1) and 429(2), Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011