February 18, 2019

EQC slated after asbestos inquiry

EQC slated after asbestos inquiry


Last updated 05:00, December 9 2014

The Earthquake Commission (EQC) failed to manage asbestos risks in earthquake home repairs, a report says.

WorkSafe New Zealand released its findings from an investigation into EQC’s Canterbury home repair programme since 2011. The investigation found deficiencies but not enough to lay charges because the risks to homeowners and contractors had been “very low”.

Canterbury medical officer of health Dr Alistair Humphrey has questioned the findings because 10 homes only had been tested as part of the investigation.

“To hold such firm conclusions after testing on such a small sample seems to be drawing an extremely long bow knowing at least 9000 homes are likely to contain asbestos,” he said.

EQC chief executive Ian Simpson defended his organisation, saying EQC prioritised the “most pressing needs” of Cantabrians after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

The investigation was inconclusive about how many houses were tested but found testing had been insufficient, especially in the programme’s first year.

The report also said EQC had not sought clarification of the potential risks before deciding this year not to retrospectively test repaired homes. No clear reason for this decision was provided.

However, experts said overall the risks associated with the type of repair work being carried out were “unlikely to cause any asbestos-related deaths”.

Simpson said the research found even in a worst-case scenario, the risks did not reach a level where a single worker could be expected to develop mesothelioma or lung cancer.

“Our priority was to get people into safe and warm homes as soon as possible.

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“We focused first on removing potentially lethal hazards such as unstable chimneys, providing or repairing heating before the onset of winter, and ensuring homes were weather tight.”

Contractors had been required to manage health and safety risks on site – including asbestos – from the start of the programme, he said.

The independent research cited in the WorkSafe report was commissioned by Fletcher EQR and conducted by Australian health risk consultants Greencap NAA.

– The Press

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EQC slated after asbestos inquiry

Asbestos homes compensation agreed

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Asbestos homes compensation agreed

Asbestos warning for homeowners

Asbestos warning for homeowners

Last updated 07:55 18/10/2014

Canterbury homeowners carrying out their own earthquake repairs could be at risk of asbestos contamination, government and local body agencies warn.

The Combined Health and Environment Risks Programme Control Group (CHER) yesterday launched a website designed to help owners and contractors identify and manage asbestos risk. CHER spokesperson Kathryn Heiler said up to 70,000 houses could contain asbestos.

Property owners doing DIY repairs and small contractors could be putting themselves at risk.

Asbestos created a health risk only if it was disturbed or broken up and fibres were released into the air, CHER said.


Asbestos warning for homeowners

Asbestos removal 'overlooked'

Asbestos removal ‘overlooked’

Removal in cash settlements underfunded


Last updated 08:58 12/06/2014

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The Earthquake Commission (EQC) might have underfunded potential asbestos removal in thousands of residential cash settlements, an earthquake contractor says.

Accredited Fletcher EQR contractor Warwick Joy said EQC should have warned homeowners about asbestos risks when issuing a payout for houses built between 1940 and 1990.

However, an EQC spokesman said this week that mandatory testing for homes built between 1940s and 1990s only applied to homes in the Canterbury Home Repair Programme (CHRP), not to cash settlements.

Joy said homeowners with cash settlements might decide to repair their property, potentially exposing themselves to asbestos.

He said he checked 2011 EQC assessment reports for friends and family who had been cash-settled. In both reports, work on high-risk materials was paid for, but no mention was made of the asbestos risk.

He estimated it would cost around $5000 to remove asbestos from his uncle’s house, and about $1500 from a friend’s.

Joy said this probable cost was not provided for in the cash settlement.

However, an EQC spokesman said the $100 cost of an asbestos test had been provided for in the cash settlement, even though there was no specific mention of it.

It was up to the builder hired to do the repairs to decide whether or not a test was needed.

“A margin is built in for a contractor to do preparatory work, including any asbestos testing if this is required,” he said.

If the test returned a positive asbestos result, the homeowner could provide a copy of the test certificate to EQC so their cash settlement figure could be reviewed if necessary.

Joy was concerned none of this information was provided to homeowners before a payout.

EQC said all this information could be found on its website.

EQC figures show more than 3000 homeowners have opted out of the CHRP this year alone, following changes in February to EQC’s opt-out scheme allowing claims where damage was assessed at over $15,000 to be cash-settled.

Joy said homeowners who had received a payout not covering asbestos testing and treatment should pay back EQC and opt into the Fletcher EQR programme to make sure asbestos would be safely taken care of.

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– The Press


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Asbestos removal 'overlooked'

Retrospective asbestos checks urged

Retrospective asbestos checks urged


Last updated 05:00 06/06/2014

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A Fletcher EQR contractor is calling for retrospective asbestos testing of earthquake-damaged homes repaired before mandatory checks were brought in.

Bruce West, an accredited EQR repairer since 2011, criticised the home repair programme’s asbestos testing regime in an open letter to the Earthquake Commission (EQC), Fletcher EQR and Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee.

He was concerned that testing of homes built between 1940 and 1990, in which asbestos could be present in lathe and plaster, flooring, soffits, roofing and exterior cladding, did not become mandatory until June 2012.

His fear was “thousands” of repairs had been completed without testing, “with around 12,000 workers, together with occupants of repaired homes potentially exposed to unidentified or uncontained asbestos hazards in those properties”.

West’s suspicions were further aroused when a Fletcher EQR memo announcing the mandatory testing, sent to contractors on June 25, 2012, was dated January 15, 2011.

He wanted all homes meeting the risk criteria to be “urgently” tested for asbestos by an independent authority, and for Fletcher EQR to be immediately suspended until its methods were “comprehensively audited”.

West told The Press that checking work completed before June 2012 should have been an “obvious priority”.

“If you’re that concerned with ongoing work, then you should be equally concerned with the work that’s already been performed,” he said.

“There’s no reason for it not to be done, other than the inconvenience and expense to EQC and Fletcher, but then they should have thought of that earlier.”

West said he was aware asbestos could be found in stipple ceilings, soffits and garage linings, but not lathe and plaster.

He had not considered the risks because the pace of the work programme meant he “had to just get on with it”.

West accepted the onus was on contractors to understand risks on their building site, but felt EQR should have given asbestos greater emphasis.

He said he was surprised, given Fletcher’s construction experience, that testing had not been mandatory “since day one”.

EQC business services manager David Lowe said a guideline on managing asbestos was issued in January 2011.

Until June 2012, contractors were required to arrange testing for all houses assessed as potentially containing asbestos.

The mandatory testing introduced in June 2012 was “well in excess of the legal minimums”, he said.

“The improvements made over the life of the programme make [the home repair programme] one of the best examples of asbestos investigation and management in New Zealand.”

The memo dated January 2011 that West had received was an error “possibly due to incorrect completion of an automated memo template”, Lowe said.

West was not convinced the date on the memo was a mistake. “The memo was obviously meant to be a big deal and issued on that date, but it wasn’t,” he said.

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– The Press


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Retrospective asbestos checks urged

Asbestos trade breakfast attracts hundreds of workers

More than 350 people working on the Canterbury rebuild downed tools for two hours early this morning to learn more about working with asbestos and understanding the risks and controls that need to be in place.

The Canterbury Rebuild Health and Safety Programme team, part of the Ministry of Business of Innovation and Employment’s Health and Safety Group, held the trade breakfast at Addington Raceway this morning.

“Managing the health risks of asbestos is a major issue in the rebuild, and it’s absolutely crucial that any employer or principal working on the rebuild understands their responsibilities and requirements,” says Programme Director Kathryn Heiler.

“As the residential rebuild gets underway in earnest, many construction companies are asking for more information and advice on asbestos removal,” Ms Heiler says.

“In particular companies are interested in the process for applying for Certificates of Competence, a requirement for anyone who works with friable asbestos, or undertakes what’s known as restricted work with asbestos.

“Since 2011 MBIE has already held a number of smaller workshops and education sessions on asbestos and occupational health in the rebuild – but it has been fantastic to see such a strong turnout this morning.

“Over the next few months the Programme team will be holding more of these types of events, helping to provide information and guidance on health and safety to rebuild workers and companies,” Ms Heiler says.

This morning’s trade breakfast covered off topics of:

– hazard identification

– asbestos sites

– health issues

– testing and sampling

– responsibilities of employers and duty-holders

– unrestricted and restricted work, and

– Certificates of Competency.

See more here – 

Asbestos trade breakfast attracts hundreds of workers