On 12 October 2020, a director of a demolition and asbestos removal company was sentenced in the Brisbane Magistrates Court for removal of over 10m2 of non-friable asbestos without authorisation from the appropriate licence, in contravention of section 43(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘Act’) and section 487(1) Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (‘Regulation’). Magistrate Mark Nolan fined the defendant $2,000. No conviction was recorded. His Honour also ordered that the defendant pay professional costs in the sum of $1,500 and court costs of $99.70, to be paid within 3 months.
The company’s asbestos removal licence was cancelled in July 2018, effective until July 2019. In May 2019, the company was contacted by a builder to conduct demolition work and asbestos removal of the second storey of a residence located at Graceville. The defendant quoted those works to be completed, and the quote was accepted by the builder.
On 7 May 2019, the company completed and forwarded the relevant Form 65 Notification of licensed asbestos removal work for asbestos removal works to be conducted at the worksite, which indicated that the company was conducting the removal using another company’s licence. The defendant later attended the address with another worker and removed 32.89m2 of asbestos containing material (ACM), before Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (‘WHSQ’) attended and prevented them from completing that work. Discussions between the WHSQ inspector and the defendant indicated that he was removing the ACM using the other company’s licence. The other company was unaware of the asbestos removal work being undertaken by the defendant and was not involved in the work that was being completed. At the time of the works being conducted, neither the defendant nor the company he operated held a licence to remove over 10m2 ACM, and as a worker of that company the defendant was not authorised to conduct the ACM removal work on its behalf.
In sentencing, Magistrate Mark Nolan noted the circumstances in which the plea of guilty was entered by the defendant. The matter had been listed for trial but subsequently abandoned through correspondence sent to the Court in the week prior to the hearing date, with the defendant indicating a plea of guilty.
His Honour indicated that the matter was serious as it involved the removal of asbestos containing material without the appropriate licence. His Honour acknowledged the defendant, having been previously professionally engaged in that business, would have known that the licence was required for the asbestos removal work. His Honour held that work health and safety legislation operated to protect people from asbestos. His Honour also commented that, although the defendant had conducted asbestos removal work without a licence, he had implemented an asbestos removal plan for the work to be undertaken.
When considering the penalty to be imposed, Magistrate Nolan had regard to both general and personal deterrence. His Honour also had regard to the personal circumstances of the defendant.
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Section 43(1) Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and section 487(1) Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011