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July 17, 2018

No health risk with asbestos removal: Cera


No health risk with asbestos removal: Cera


Last updated 17:27 13/03/2015

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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Asbestos being removed from Christchurch’s residential red zone does not pose a health hazard, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) says.

A red-zoned Dallington resident, living on the edge of green-zoned lane, became worried when asbestos removal workers in white suits turned up opposite her house on Friday. They took away a trailer load of debris.

“We walk every day there with our dogs,” she said.

“You’re right in the middle of all these houses and they’re not telling everybody.”

A Cera spokeswoman said contractors were hired to remove asbestos from properties in Dallington and Burwood to prepare for interim land treatment, such as levelling the land and planting grass.

“On some properties, [asbestos] material that has been used as a non-rot strip on the bottom of fences has been found,” she said.

“When the fence has been pulled or trees [and] vegetation along the fences lines have been removed, this has become visible.”

The fibres were bonded to the sheeting and were therefore “non-friable”.

“It is not likely to present a health risk,” she said.

Contractors followed Worksafe procedures when removing asbestos, hence the suits.

After structures, debris and unwanted vegetation were cleared, contractors tidied the Crown-owned land before the land was levelled, fenced off and planted with grass, she said.

In wetland areas like Bexley, invasive plants would be removed and wetland species left to regenerate naturally.

Dune grasses would be planted in sandy places like Southshore, she said.


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– The Press


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No health risk with asbestos removal: Cera

EQC slated after asbestos inquiry

EQC slated after asbestos inquiry

CECILE MEIER

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 risk 'very low' in quake repairs: Worksafe

Asbestos risk ‘very low’ in quake repairs: Worksafe

CECILE MEIER

Last updated 17:38, December 8 2014

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

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

The investigation found:

– Prior to June 2012, asbestos was seldom discussed or tested for.

– EQC contractors took waste from repairs to a dump that was not approved for asbestos-contaminated material.

– Within a sample of 35 home repairs, WorkSafe found contractors often started repairs “without [providing] any record of an adequate safety plan”. There were only 12 safety plans in the sample of 35 home repairs.

– Six out of 10 homes tested as part of the investigation contained asbestos. In these houses, repairs had been completed without prior testing.

Canterbury medical officer of health Dr Alistair Humphrey 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. 


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

EQC’s safety system had been inadequate and lacked monitoring and feedback processes. The report said poor management of asbestos risk may have extended to quality management of the repairs.

It 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, the report found.

However, experts said overall the risks associated with the type of repair work being carried out was “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.

“We focussed 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. WorkSafe’s experts reviewed this research as part of its investigation.


– The Press

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Asbestos risk 'very low' in quake repairs: Worksafe

Council to give asbestos DIY advice


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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Asbestos removal 'overlooked'


Asbestos removal ‘overlooked’


Removal in cash settlements underfunded

CECILE MEIER

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'

Asbestos removal worried family


Asbestos removal worried family


NICOLE MATHEWSON

Last updated 05:00 09/06/2014

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A Christchurch community board chairwoman has got into a spat with a demolition company over her concerns about their handling of debris from a house containing asbestos.

Last week Avondale resident Andrea Cummings wrote on her Facebook page that she was shocked to see workers wearing hazardous materials suits and masks loading demolition material into a bin next door to her home.

No-one had told her what was happening and she feared the material contained asbestos, potentially putting her family “only 3 metres away” at risk.

A WorkSafe New Zealand spokesman told The Press it visited the demolition site last week and reviewed a video posted online by Cummings.

“On the basis of the information that we’ve got, we’re satisfied that the work is being undertaken appropriately,” he said.

Cummings said the company had tried to bully her into withdrawing her concerns.

She is the chairwoman of the Burwood-Pegasus Community Board, but said her comments were made “as someone who wants to advocate for the community”.

The posts were made on her personal Facebook page but were visible to the public.

Pro Tranz Ltd owner Gerard Daldry said the company had not bullied Cummings but wanted her to apologise for making public comments that were “completely not true”.

“We’ve bent over backwards to help her. What she has done is actually quite detrimental to the whole thing.”

Pro Tranz was required to notify only WorkSafe New Zealand when it came across asbestos, but he agreed the company should have told Cummings about what was happening next door to her.

“Normally we do. That was probably a shortfall on our behalf,” Daldry said.

Asbestos specialists removed most of the contaminated material before demolition work started last week but some under the floor had not been accessible until the top of the building was removed.

Daldry said the bin near Cummings’ fence was for general demolition material, not material containing asbestos.

It had all been dampened down with a hose to minimise any dust before it was picked up and moved into the bin.

People had a “right to worry” about asbestos, he said, but Cummings and her family were never at any risk of exposure.

He said she should have discussed her concerns with him or WorkSafe New Zealand rather than posting publicly on Facebook.

“I don’t want this to have an adverse effect on the industry. People need to be better informed. “Let’s make this something that’s a learning curve for everybody,” Daldry said.


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Retrospective asbestos checks urged


Retrospective asbestos checks urged


MARC GREENHILL

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 checks urged


Retrospective asbestos checks urged


MARC GREENHILL

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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Asbestos checks urged

Asbestos found at Porirua kindergarten


Asbestos found at Porirua kindergarten


RHIANNON MCCONNELL

Last updated 10:25 01/04/2014

abestos

RHIANNON MCCONNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

DANGEROUS FIND: Kyle Mitchell points out asbestos found at his daughter’s kindergarten in Pukerua Bay.

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A parent at a kindergarten north of Wellington was shocked to discover children playing around asbestos.


Do you have more information? Email us at editor@kmananews.co.nz


Builder Kyle Mitchell was in the garden at Pukerua Bay Kindergarten, in Porirua with his daughter when he noticed pieces of asbestos protruding from the ground.

“I pulled a big piece out,” he said. “I was pretty shocked. That’s pretty dubious stuff. The kids have actually been running on it.”

The father of three raised his concerns with teachers.

“It’s bloody terrible that the kids have been have been exposed to the hazardous substance for some time.”

Barriers were put up by the kindergarten and a removal specialist was called in last Thursday afternoon.

Pukerua Bay Kindergarten head teacher Carrie-Ann Stark would not discuss the issue. When asked for a kindergarten committee spokesperson, she said that was her too, but she still would not comment.

Wellington Kindergartens Association spokeswoman Jenny Varney, who said she was also speaking on behalf of the kindergarten, said the kindergarten acted quickly after learning of the asbestos.

“Forty-eight hours from whoa to go it was gone. It was identified and removed,” she said.

“Many years ago we disposed of things very differently than we do now. It is a historic thing and we can only carefully monitor it.”

The kindergarten was established in 1977.

Varney said she believed rain had recently uncovered the material and she did not believe anyone had been at risk.

“We are always concerned about pupils’ safety, but there’s no reason to believe anyone has come in contact with [the asbestos] in the past.”

Mitchell said the asbestos did not look as if it had been uncovered recently.

“It’s been there for years. Some of it’s been sticking out for ages,” he said. “It should have been cleaned up.”

He suspected the area was once used as a dumping ground.

“I spoke to one of the teachers and they said that in the past they had also found big shards of glass and that it must have been some sort of dumping ground and [the kindergarten] never bothered to have the play area cleared of this rubbish.”

Mitchell said the clean-up was a good start, but the area needed to be fully checked and cleared for it to be safe.

His wife, Rachael, said the kindergarten was focused on safety and she believed it would do what was best for the children.


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“My view is they weren’t aware of asbestos there and as soon as they were they went into protection mode.”

Varney said the kindergarten did not believe there was any more danger, but it would be careful.

“We would be foolish not to keep an eye on things,” she said. “Now that this happened we will be extra vigilant.”

‘I’LL BE BANNING MY KIDS’

Lower Hutt GP Stewart Reid said it would be very hard to be sure if the children at Pukerua Bay Kindergarten had been exposed to asbestos.

“I don’t think there’s any way you can detect if any significant exposure has occurred,” he said. “The issue is that nothing much happens until many years later.

“If it was me, I’d be banning my kids from being near there.” Reid said asbestos was only dangerous if inhaled. “If it is in a garden, there is a reasonable chance that some of it could break down and get dusty. “If there is no asbestos dust it is OK,” he said.

WHAT IS ASBESTOS?

Asbestos is a group of minerals made up of many small fibres. It is a risk to health when breathed in as dust.

Fibres can get stuck in the lungs and body, leading to breathing difficulties and even lung cancer.

If asbestos is exposed or damaged it can be dangerous.

Before the dangers were known, it was popular because of its fire- resistant, insulation and reinforcement properties. It became popular in the 19th century as a cheap building material. Many old buildings in New Zealand contain asbestos. Its use is banned in many places.

– Kapi-Mana News


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Asbestos found at Porirua kindergarten

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'