On 20 January 2022, a handyman was sentenced in the Brisbane Magistrates Court for multiple breaches of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘the Act’) and the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (‘the Regulation’). The defendant breached section 43(2) of the Act by removing more than 10sqm of asbestos containing materials without holding a license authorising him to do so, as required by the Regulation. Additionally, the defendant was charged with contraventions of the Regulation for failing to ensure the safe containment and removal of asbestos waste, and for using implements on asbestos in an uncontrolled manner causing airborne asbestos to be released into the atmosphere.
The defendant pleaded guilty. Magistrate Suzette Coates imposed a single fine for all three offences of $3,000. A conviction was not recorded.
The defendant operated a business performing various handyman-type tasks. In July 2019, the defendant responded to a job posted on the online-marketplace, “Airtasker”, requesting the removal of approximately 45m2 of asbestos from a Paddington home. The defendant did not have the required Queensland licence permitting him to remove that quantity of asbestos containing material. The defendant however held himself out to the home-owner to be a qualified asbestos removalist by providing a foreign certificate in asbestos removal.
Over a three-day period in July 2019 the defendant and an assistant removed 36.8m2 of asbestos containing material from the residence. The defendant and his assistant used implements including wrecking bars to remove asbestos from the home’s internal walls, causing the release of airborne asbestos into the atmosphere. The defendant and his assistant then loaded the removed asbestos waste directly into the tray of a Ute without otherwise sealing or containing the waste.
In sentencing the defendant, Magistrate Coates acknowledged the well-documented nature of the risks associated with asbestos and the legislative intention of the offence provisions being to reduce those risks. Her Honour also had regard to the defendant’s early guilty plea, absence of criminal history, and otherwise good character.
Having regard to the defendant’s modest financial circumstances the total penalty imposed was $3,000. Her Honour identified that a penalty in the range of $4,500 to $7,500 would otherwise ordinarily be appropriate.
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Charge1: Sec. 43(2) of the WH&S Act 2011 and sec 487(1) of the WH&S 2011. Charge 2: Section 472(1) of the WH&S Regulation 2011. Charge 3: Sec. 446(3) of the WH&S Regulation.