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June 23, 2018

Asbestos 'needs a ban and a plan' – petition presented

Workers have today presented a petition signed by over a thousand New Zealanders calling on the Government to ban the importation of asbestos and develop a comprehensive plan for the removal of all existing asbestos in New Zealand.

“Asbestos is the biggest workplace killer in New Zealand. It kills at least 170 workers annually: more than twice as many workers as accidental deaths at work. The number of people dying from asbestos related diseases (lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis) is increasing and the Government projections are that it will peak at 300: higher than the road toll,” said CTU Secretary, Sam Huggard.

“New Zealand is out of step with other developed countries. We are still importing asbestos containing products. Australia prohibited the import of all asbestos containing products in 2003. Similar bans in the United Kingdom date to the late 1990s.”

“The CTU, on behalf of all workers, calls for the Government to implement a total ban on the importation of asbestos containing materials. This action is overdue and well behind the action which other countries have taken.”

“We are very concerned about asbestos exposure in Christchurch. Public health experts continue to raise concerns about what the impact will be for workers will be in the decades to come.”

“New regulations are proposed that will significantly assist in the management of asbestos: These should be given the highest priority.”

“However, much more action is needed. The CTU recommends a twelve-point plan to deal with asbestos.”

“Many hundreds more people will die as a result of exposure in the next 50 years. We should act now to ensure that this is the lowest number possible, and that there are no more unnecessary exposures to asbestos,” said Huggard.

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Asbestos 'needs a ban and a plan' – petition presented

Fine for failing to test for asbestos


Fine for failing to test for asbestos

12 December 2014

Fine for failing to test for
asbestos

Peter Page, the manager of Apartment
Renovation Company, has been fined $40,000 after he failed
to test a substance for asbestos. Mr Page was obliged to
have the textured ceilings tested for asbestos prior to
commencing the work.

Mr Page was sentenced today in the
Auckland District Court under Health and Safety in
Employment (Asbestos) Regulations and the Health and Safety
in Employment Act. Mr Page should have taken all practicable
steps to ensure that, when it was necessary to know whether
a substance was asbestos or not, the substance was
appropriately tested.

Shane Harris was employed as a
handyman by Peter Page to work on 10 units being renovated
and painted at a Kingsway Avenue site. Eight of the units
had textured ceilings.

Mr Harris started work on the site
on 29 July 2013 and about two weeks later he first expressed
his concerns about the ceilings to Mr Page. Because he did
not test for asbestos before work started, Mr Page was then
obliged to have the ceilings tested but did not. He told Mr
Harris that the ceilings had been tested and they were not
asbestos. This was not true. As a result up to 15
contractors were potentially exposed to the risk of asbestos
for approximately 3 months. When Mr Harris became concerned
that the advice he had received from the Mr Page was not
correct, he took his own sample which tested positive for
the presence of asbestos.

“It is recommended practice to
treat any suspect material, like textured ceilings, as
containing asbestos until test results prove otherwise,”
says Brett Murray, General Manager High Hazards and
Specialist Services. “Asbestos poses a risk if it is not
properly contained, especially during building work where
materials are cut or drilled.”

Peter Page had identified
the textured ceilings before work started but he thought the
ceilings were asbestos-free as they didn’t have sparkling
material visible to the eye. “Asbestos is often mixed with
other materials so it is virtually impossible to identify by
eye,” says Brett Murray. “The only way to be certain
that materials contain asbestos is to have them
tested.

“While Mr Page now routinely tests for asbestos
when working with textured ceilings, the regulations are
clear. If you are alerted to the possibility of asbestos in
any material, then you have to have that material
tested.”

• Asbestos has been a major focus for
WorkSafe NZ over the past 12 months.
• In December
2013, WorkSafe New Zealand organised a trans-Tasman forum on asbestos in
Canterbury and in May 2014 we released an Asbestos Toolkit, a series of eight
factsheets on asbestos.
• We have also launched a new
website on asbestos aimed at helping homeowners and DIYers
understand the risks involved with asbestos and how to
manage them.
www.asbestosaware.co.nz was launched in
Christchurch by the Combined Health and Environment Risks
Programme Control Group made up of WorkSafe NZ, Environment
Canterbury, Christchurch City Council, CERA, Canterbury DHB
and Waimakariri District
Council.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

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Fine for failing to test for asbestos

Council to give DIY advice on 'safe' home asbestos removal


Council to give asbestos DIY advice


LOIS CAIRNS

Last updated 05:00 04/08/2014

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The Rebuild

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Do-it-yourself homeowners will be targeted by a new campaign aimed at encouraging the safe removal of building materials containing asbestos.

Christchurch City Council inspections and enforcement unit manager Anne Columbus said that in the past authorities had been reluctant to provide information to homeowners on how to safely remove asbestos because they did not want to encourage them to remove it themselves, but this was happening anyway because it was expensive to get professionals to remove it.

The joint agency Waste and Environmental Management Team (Wemt) set up to manage the mountain of waste generated by the quakes had now decided to change tack and were in the process of pulling together information for homeowners on how they could manage their own asbestos removal.

“The message now is if you are going to do it, do it the right way and do the right thing,” Columbus told the council’s environment committee.

She said a new dedicated website would go live where DIY people would be able to get detailed advice on how to remove asbestos safely and how to dispose of it. It was part of a new community education campaign supported by Worksafe New Zealand and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.

Cr David East said the problem was not just disposing of asbestos in building materials, but also disposing of soil contaminated with asbestos.

On the former Queen Elizabeth II site, for example, there were three or four large piles of asbestos-contaminated soil. Although it technically posed little risk to the community, there was a perception among nearby residents that it could pose a health hazard.

“What is the longer-term strategy for getting rid of contaminated soil? There must be thousands of cubic metres of it?” East said.

Environment Canterbury programme manager Don Chittock acknowledged the disposal of contaminated soil was an issue and said solutions were being sought.

“We have a meeting tomorrow with Transwaste [which operates the Kate Valley landfill] to discuss disposal options . . . we’re working with the industry to provide solutions,” Chittock said.

The environment committee decided to ask for more information on the removal and disposal of asbestos-contaminated soil. It also voted unanimously to ask the council to write to the minister of building innovation and employment in support of a ban on the importation of materials containing asbestos.


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– The Press

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Council to give DIY advice on 'safe' home asbestos removal

Family demand asbestos-test result


Family demand asbestos-test result


NICOLE MATHEWSON

Last updated 05:00 04/06/2014

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A Canterbury family fears they have been exposed to asbestos, but say Fletcher EQR and the Earthquake Commission (EQC) are refusing to hand over the results of a test.

Architectural technician David Reynolds said he was told by “reliable sources” that the test came back positive for asbestos, but he had been unable to get confirmation from authorities, despite asking for months.

Reynolds said the suspected contaminated material was cut by workers who were not wearing protective clothing or masks and while he was present.

Some was carried through the kitchen without care and some was left exposed in the home’s only toilet while his young children were home, he said.

“[I] live with the fear that my family was exposed to asbestos.”

He was seeking legal advice, including whether to get an independent test done.

A Fletcher spokesman told The Press the result of the second asbestos test was passed on verbally, although he was unable to confirm the date that happened.

“Our standard is to also provide the written report, and we apologise for not having done so in this case.”

The spokesman confirmed the result was positive for asbestos and related to the exterior cladding of the house.

Reynolds said the results were only “hinted” at and had never been formally passed on.

“More than just telling us, they need to show us the report and tell us where [the asbestos] is.”

Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) member Andy Dickerson raised concerns about the handling of asbestos in Canterbury’s rebuild in May 2011 “because I was concerned at what I was seeing in the community”.

Some groups were still trying to “play down” the importance of the issue, he said.

“I believe this is a major issue for Christchurch going forward. The CDHB has a statutory role to protect public health and should not be swayed from carrying out this function.”

It was likely that anyone who had been exposed to asbestos would not show any health effects “for many years”, he said.

WorkSafe New Zealand had investigated and closed five complaints about the handling of asbestos during Canterbury’s rebuild, and was currently investigating a sixth complaint against Fletcher.

A WorkSafe spokesman said proceedings for the case were adjourned by the Christchurch District Court on Friday.


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– The Press


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Family demand asbestos-test result

Asbestos complaints rocketing


Asbestos complaints rocketing


TESS MCCLURE

Last updated 09:00 26/05/2014

Asbestos

Supplied

SAFETY FIRST: An asbestos removal company employee at work in the city. Earthquake demolition work has increased complaints of exposure.

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Workers complaining of asbestos exposure in Canterbury have increased by 350 per cent following the Christchurch earthquakes.

But with asbestos not covered by health and safety notification laws, companies are not obligated to report it, and the scope of the problem may be much larger.

In the last two years, government workplace health and safety regulator Worksafe has shut down the sites of Christchurch companies with 33 prohibition notices for unsafe asbestos removal.

Worksafe Canterbury rebuild health and safety director Kathryn Heiler said that, despite increasing training and awareness, companies were still demolishing buildings without checking for asbestos.

“Our inspectors are seeing too many properties throughout the region being demolished before asbestos has been properly identified and appropriate controls have been put in place,” she said. “This is simply not acceptable.”

Complaints to Worksafe of asbestos exposure jumped from 16 in 2010 to more than 70 last year, a 350 per cent increase.

And notifications of being exposed unsafely to asbestos recorded on the voluntary National Asbestos Register have tripled from pre-quake levels to 61.

Data collected by Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment shows a huge amount of asbestos work being done in Christchurch. They record 560 notifications of asbestos work from July 2012 to May 2013 – compared to 48 in Auckland and 40 in Wellington.

Asbestos was a common building material in Kiwi homes until its carcinogenic properties were discovered in the 1980s.

Enclosed and undisturbed, it is benign, but as post-quake deconstruction ramps up some demolition companies are not testing for the substance properly.

A demolition worker speaking to The Press anonymously said when he first began in demolition in 2013, the company did not test for asbestos, wear safety gear or have safety procedures for dealing with the substance.

“We had nothing. It wasn’t talked about at all. Asbestos was like this sort of myth. We weren’t testing the buildings we demolished.”

He estimates around half the houses they demolished in that time period could have been asbestos contaminated.

“Only now, looking back, in hindsight . . . pretty much everything we touched could have had asbestos in it.”

At the end of 2013 company training began, and safety procedures were put in place, and the team realised how much exposure they may have already had.


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“It was a big shock. Most people felt pretty depressed. Even our foreman was like ‘Oh, my God,’ because he’d been doing demolition for two years, pulling down buildings and breathing this stuff in.”

He had not laid a complaint or registered on the exposure registry, and believed many others would not bother.

A Worksafe spokesperson said employers were not obligated to report if employees were exposed to asbestos.

Asbestos exposure was not included in the legislation criteria and could not be recorded as a serious harm notification.

Worksafe had issued 33 prohibition notices to 25 companies since 2012 for asbestos, including Wheelers Construction.

Wheelers office manager Suzy Bragg said initially there were no clear guidelines for asbestos removal in residential homes.

“When we first started [after the earthquakes], no-one really knew what the asbestos requirements were.

“It wasn’t till the end of 2012 that anyone even started thinking about asbestos.”

Bragg said Wheelers followed all legal requirements as they learned of them. She said the company had responded to each of their two Worksafe prohibition notices and fixed the problem within 24 hours.

University of Canterbury Toxicology Professor Ian Shaw said health effects from asbestos would only emerge years after exposure.

He said high exposure over several years was needed for serious effects to be likely, but there was no “minimum exposure” to cause cancer.

“In theory you only need one asbestos fibre, and for that fibre get into the right place into the lungs.”

– The Press


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Asbestos complaints rocketing

Canterbury can't be left with asbestos legacy – Dyson

Labour’s Canterbury Earthquake Recovery spokesperson Ruth Dyson has renewed a call for an asbestos register in light of major concerns about future exposure.

It follows meetings between building industry leaders from New Zealand and Australia in Christchurch this week to discuss the dangers asbestos poses in the rebuild.

“It is estimated that asbestos in the ceilings of at least 4000 earthquake damaged homes has been encased behind plasterboard rather than being removed.

“Current property owners know what’s in their ceilings, but there is no onus on them to notify future owners.

“Workshops are being held for contractors handling asbestos but that doesn’t help future do-it-yourselfers.

“It is a potentially lethal substance. To ignore the risk it poses is negligence at its worst.

“A register to identify all houses which have encased asbestos should be set up and any properties on the list should remain on it until the asbestos has been removed.

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Canterbury can't be left with asbestos legacy – Dyson

Specialists to clear Tuam St asbestos


Specialists to clear Tuam St asbestos


GEORGINA STYLIANOU

Last updated 05:00 21/11/2013

tuam st

DEAN KOZANIC

The demolition of the old Christchurch City Council offices in Tuam Street has begun.

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Asbestos will be removed from the former Christchurch civic building in Tuam St while a neighbouring site continues to be dampened down after contamination hot spots were identified.

The multi-storey building was occupied by the Christchurch City Council from 1980 until 2010 and was recently sold to the Central Christchurch Development Unit as the land is earmarked for the new inner-city bus interchange.

Earlier this month, preliminary testing of an adjoining vacant site identified isolated traces of asbestos in the soil between Lichfield St and Struthers Lane.

Ceres New Zealand was awarded the demolition contract for the Tuam St building and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) is managing the project. A Cera spokeswoman yesterday confirmed the building contained the potentially lethal substance as well as lead-based paint.

“That will have to be disposed of properly too,” she said.

Both hazards were “normal things” expected of many buildings constructed before the mid-1980s.

Specialists would be handling the removal of all hazardous substances, she said.

Meanwhile, an asbestos investigation had been conducted on the vacant land and the report was due back this week.

Staff would then be able to decide how to remediate the land, she said, but in the meantime sprinklers continued to keep the site damp to minimise dust.


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Specialists to clear Tuam St asbestos

Specialists to handle asbestos issue


Specialists to clear Tuam St asbestos


GEORGINA STYLIANOU

Last updated 05:00 21/11/2013

tuam st

DEAN KOZANIC

The demolition of the old Christchurch City Council offices in Tuam Street has begun.

Relevant offers

Asbestos will be removed from the former Christchurch civic building in Tuam St while a neighbouring site continues to be dampened down after contamination hot spots were identified.

The multi-storey building was occupied by the Christchurch City Council from 1980 until 2010 and was recently sold to the Central Christchurch Development Unit as the land is earmarked for the new inner-city bus interchange.

Earlier this month, preliminary testing of an adjoining vacant site identified isolated traces of asbestos in the soil between Lichfield St and Struthers Lane.

Ceres New Zealand was awarded the demolition contract for the Tuam St building and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) is managing the project. A Cera spokeswoman yesterday confirmed the building contained the potentially lethal substance as well as lead-based paint.

“That will have to be disposed of properly too,” she said.

Both hazards were “normal things” expected of many buildings constructed before the mid-1980s.

Specialists would be handling the removal of all hazardous substances, she said.

Meanwhile, an asbestos investigation had been conducted on the vacant land and the report was due back this week.

Staff would then be able to decide how to remediate the land, she said, but in the meantime sprinklers continued to keep the site damp to minimise dust.


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– © Fairfax NZ News


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Specialists to handle asbestos issue

Asbestos policy review could save lives


Asbestos policy review could save lives


GEORGINA STYLIANOU

Last updated 05:00 20/11/2013

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An EQC policy of covering up asbestos in hundreds of quake-damaged Canterbury homes could be overhauled by the Government amid concerns about serious health risks.

Government officials have previously raised concerns about the way asbestos is being handled in post-earthquake Canterbury, but say the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Bill next month will make guidelines more clear for construction workers.

Staff from WorkSafe – the new health and safety regulator – were in Christchurch yesterday and told The Press it would be naive to think there would not be asbestos-related illnesses in the future.

The Earthquake Commission (EQC) has previously said up to 43,000 Christchurch homes due for quake repairs could contain the potentially fatal substance.

It estimated that in 10 per cent of cases, asbestos found in ceilings or walls was encased behind plasterboard, instead of being removed.

A Fletcher spokesman said about 15 to 16 per cent of houses that tested positive for asbestos were being encased.

The chairman of the WorkSafe establishment board, Gregor Coster, believed the encasement policy should be “reconsidered carefully” because it posed serious health risks in the future.

“An electrician might be rewiring a house and is put at risk and this is not what we should be doing in terms of managing health and safety,” he said.

An EQC spokesman yesterday said if there were any changes to regulations it would comply.

Coster said contractors across the region needed to be better at testing for asbestos.

“The truth of the matter is I am concerned about the potential exposure . . . particularly during that early demolition phase,” he said.

Geoffrey Podger, the acting chief executive of the WorkSafe establishment unit, said only a certain percentage of asbestos breaches in the city were identified.

“Our inspectors can’t be everywhere, but equally if everyone could carry out their legislative duties, they wouldn’t need to be,” he said.

MBIE health and safety inspector Steve Moran said the influence of big project management firms – including Arrow International and Fletcher – was having a “huge effect in lifting the performance of smaller companies”.

Canterbury District Health Board medical officer of health Dr Alistair Humphrey, who has been fighting for EQC to review its encasement policy since 2011, said it would have been cost-effective and logical to remove asbestos from houses when repairs were being done.

He urged the Government to follow in the footsteps of Australia and make a commitment to remove asbestos.


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However, it was good news the policy could be reviewed.

“The Christchurch community and the New Zealand population will reap the benefits of [WorkSafe and MBIE’s] courage,” Humphrey said.

– © Fairfax NZ News

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Asbestos policy review could save lives

Encasing asbestos a 'serious future health risk'


Encasing asbestos a ‘serious future health risk’


GEORGINA STYLIANOU

Last updated 09:03 20/11/2013

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An EQC policy of covering up asbestos in hundreds of quake-damaged Canterbury homes could be overhauled by the Government amid concerns about serious health risks.

Government officials have previously raised concerns about the way asbestos is being handled in post-earthquake Canterbury, but say the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Bill next month will make guidelines more clear for construction workers.

Staff from WorkSafe – the new health and safety regulator – were in Christchurch yesterday and told The Press it would be naive to think there would not be asbestos-related illnesses in the future.

The Earthquake Commission (EQC) has previously said up to 43,000 Christchurch homes due for quake repairs could contain the potentially fatal substance.

It estimated that in 10 per cent of cases, asbestos found in ceilings or walls was encased behind plasterboard, instead of being removed.

A Fletcher spokesman said about 15 to 16 per cent of houses that tested positive for asbestos were being encased.

The chairman of the WorkSafe establishment board, Gregor Coster, believed the encasement policy should be “reconsidered carefully” because it posed serious health risks in the future.

“An electrician might be rewiring a house and is put at risk and this is not what we should be doing in terms of managing health and safety,” he said.

An EQC spokesman yesterday said if there were any changes to regulations it would comply.

Coster said contractors across the region needed to be better at testing for asbestos.

“The truth of the matter is I am concerned about the potential exposure . . . particularly during that early demolition phase,” he said.

Geoffrey Podger, the acting chief executive of the WorkSafe establishment unit, said only a certain percentage of asbestos breaches in the city were identified.

“Our inspectors can’t be everywhere, but equally if everyone could carry out their legislative duties, they wouldn’t need to be,” he said.

MBIE health and safety inspector Steve Moran said the influence of big project management firms – including Arrow International and Fletcher – was having a “huge effect in lifting the performance of smaller companies”.

Canterbury District Health Board medical officer of health Dr Alistair Humphrey, who has been fighting for EQC to review its encasement policy since 2011, said it would have been cost-effective and logical to remove asbestos from houses when repairs were being done.

He urged the Government to follow in the footsteps of Australia and make a commitment to remove asbestos.


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However, it was good news the policy could be reviewed.

“The Christchurch community and the New Zealand population will reap the benefits of [WorkSafe and MBIE’s] courage,” Humphrey said.

THE FACTS

WorkSafe, the new health and safety regulator, will be up and running on December 16.

The health and safety functions from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will transfer to WorkSafe.

The Health and Safety at Work Bill will be introduced into the House next month and will replace The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. It will be based on Australian law. The new law and key supporting regulations are expected to be in place by the end of 2014 and will start coming into effect in 2015.

EQC has never provided figures on how many homes have had asbestos encased.

In 2011, 143 people in New Zealand were diagnosed with asbestos-related conditions, including mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos.

Five investigations into breaches of asbestos regulations are under way and the Government has laid charges after an investigation into asbestos exposure at Christchurch Hospital earlier this year.

– © Fairfax NZ News


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Encasing asbestos a 'serious future health risk'