March 25, 2019

No prosecutions in Chch asbestos investigation

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

An investigation into how asbestos was managed in Christchurch after the 2011 earthquake has found some deficiencies but no reason to prosecute anyone.

WorkSafe New Zealand has completed its review of asbestos management in the Canterbury Home Repair Programme.

WorkSafe launched the inquiry earlier this year after allegations surfaced about possible inadequacies in the Earthquake Commission (EQC) and Fletcher EQR’s systems for identifying and managing asbestos hazards during early stages of the Canterbury rebuild.

Gordon MacDonald, WorkSafe chief executive, said the investigation did find some deficiencies in the management of asbestos during early parts of the Home Repair Programme.

However, WorkSafe said the risk of harm to workers and residents was very low and prosecution was not justified. The risk to residents was likely to have been even lower, WorkSafe said.

“Given the scale of work in Canterbury it’s inevitable there were instances where work was not up to best practice and our investigation did identify shortcomings with the management of asbestos,” Mr MacDonald said.

“It has to be remembered that in the weeks and months after the Canterbury earthquakes there was an incredible amount of work done – both demolitions and emergency repairs. People and organisations were stretched and conditions were far from ideal,” he added.

Mr MacDonald said contractors had significantly improved the way they managed asbestos. He said WorkSafe and its Canterbury Rebuild Safety Charter partners had also educated tradespeople and contractors about health risks asbestos posed.

WorkSafe said the investigation included reviews of EQC and Fletcher EQR documentation, their systems and processes. It also included interviews with management, contractors and residents.

Investigators also carried out property inspections and asbestos testing in a few houses – including surface and air testing.

WorkSafe said it also hired independent experts to review research conducted on behalf of Fletcher EQR into breathable fibre release during certain types of repair work.


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No prosecutions in Chch asbestos investigation

NHS trust fined £90k over asbestos

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NHS trust fined £90k over asbestos

District evacuates Fishtown school over asbestos

Gallard said the action was taken in response to allegations by Jerry Roseman, an expert in occupational health and safety for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ Health & Welfare Fund.

Roseman and Arthur Steinberg, head of the PFT’s Health and Welfare Fund, are concerned about the district’s handling of a massive asbestos-removal project that has been underway since last fall at Penn Treaty.

Roseman told the Daily News that he “saw children walking within 15 feet of bags of asbestos waste” left Tuesday on a stairwell landing. The bags should have been be disposed of immediately in a trash bin, he said, adding that air samples at the school had significant levels of asbestos.

Gallard said the district was taking precautions even though Roseman’s contention should not be an issue.

“It is not unusual for us to have an asbestos-abatement project and children in the same area,” Gallard said.

Steinberg said the district was taking an adversarial approach to the issue.

“This administration treats us as adversaries and, obviously, they treat kids and parents with a lack of respect as well,” Steinberg said. “Otherwise, they wouldn’t allow this to occur.”

The PFT alleges these health and safety issues exist at the school:

* Varied results between air samples taken by the district and the union, and protocols weren’t followed.

* Other projects are also underway, adding more risk to the site.

* The district is less open and transparent about the project with PFT officials than in previous years when the two parties were more collaborative.

* The scope of the project has been troublesome, Steinberg and Roseman said. In addition to the four floors where asbestos must be removed in about 130 areas, workers are replacing the boiler system.

“It’s exceedingly challenging and difficult, and not going smoothly,” Roseman said.

The district disagrees. Gallard said a representative from the Department of Public Health’s Asbestos Control Unit is on site every day.

Also, city Health Department spokesman Jeff Moran said that “the project is inspected by the city two to three times a week.”

The Health Department’s Air Management Services on Tuesday found some violations at Penn Treaty after the PFT voiced concerns. The department cited both the abatement contractor, Delta/BJDS, and the air-monitoring firm, Criterion Labs, for failing to have proper signage and for not properly securing a shaft-enclosure entrance, according to the citation records.

“The work is done under the eye of the Asbestos Control Unit,” Gallard said. “We are very confident of the work done by the Health Department on behalf of the children of Philadelphia and making sure the district follows the regulations and programs for workers and individuals in the building.”

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District evacuates Fishtown school over asbestos

Asbestos caused death of former carriageworks employee

Asbestos caused death of former carriageworks employee

York Press: Asbestos caused death of former carriageworks employee

Asbestos caused death of former carriageworks employee

A retired electrical technician has died as a result of inhaling asbestos during 15 years’ working at York Carriageworks, an inquest has heard.

In a statement to his solicitors before his death, Derek Wilson, 65, described how blue and white asbestos was thrown into the air by work on carriages at the British Rail Engineering plant on Holgate Road where he worked from 1973 to 1988.

He got so dirty from the dust, he needed to wash at the end of his shift.

The inquest at New Earswick Folk Hall heard that Mr Wilson, of Bellhouse Way, Foxwood, died at St Leonard’s Hospice, York, on March 29, 2014.

A post mortem revealed he had asbestos fibres in his body and had died from malignant mesothelioma, a form of cancer commonly caused by asbestos which is recognised as an industrial disease. He had been diagnosed as having the disease more than a year earlier.

York coroner Donald Coverdale concluded he had died from an industrial disease and that the mesothelioma had been caused by inhaling asbestos dust during his work at the carriageworks.

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Asbestos caused death of former carriageworks employee

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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Asbestos checks urged

Asbestos risk closes school for another week

Bayfield School, Herne Bay. Photo / Jason Dorday.
Bayfield School, Herne Bay. Photo / Jason Dorday.

The potential for asbestos contamination at a primary school will keep students away until at least Thursday next week.

Bayfield School in Auckland’s Herne Bay closed on Thursday last week after tests showed the possibility that asbestos dust had drifted outside a contained worksite on the school grounds.

Students were kept home from school on Friday and this week they had been attending nearby Ponsonby Primary School, where they were being taught in the school hall and additional classrooms.

Bayfield Board of Trustees’ chairman David McPherson said in a statement today that the school would be closed until all demolition work was completed.

The school was demolishing classrooms on site due to leaky building problems, and the school swimming pool was also being removed.

“The safety of our students and teaching staff is paramount, so we won’t re-open the school until we are assured, through the Board’s independent review process, that the site is safe,” Mr McPherson said.

Once the school is re-opened, building would not go ahead until the board could verify the work would be undertaken safely, he said.

Two investigations were underway into the process of the asbestos removal.

“We will await the results of these investigations, which will also be shared with the community,” Mr McPherson said.

“In fairness to the various parties involved in those investigations it is important that we don’t jump to conclusions about the process that was undertaken.”

An asbestos-contaminated building was demolished during the school holidays, however the demolished material was not removed from the school site until Friday last week.

There was concern that during that time asbestos dust had travelled from the work site to the rest of the school grounds.


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Asbestos risk closes school for another week

School shut down over asbestos risk

Bayfield School, Herne Bay. Photo / Jason Dorday.
Bayfield School, Herne Bay. Photo / Jason Dorday.

An Auckland primary school has been shut down by its board of trustees due to an asbestos risk.

The decision to close Bayfield School in Herne Bay was made last night to mitigate the risk of asbestos dust from a nearby building site where demolition and asbestos removal work was being carried out.

The decision was made by its board of trustees following meetings with the school’s principal Sheryl Fletcher, the Ministry of Education, project contractors and Work Safe NZ – the organisation responsible for health and safety on the building works.

In a statement, school representatives said in those meetings, the board sought assurance from the project team that health and safety issues associated with the agreed project plan for the removal of asbestos were being adequately dealt with.

The ministry was the contract counterparty on the work and the board’s role was that of an observer, the statement said.

“To date we have been satisfied with the process being applied but during the course of today we have become increasingly concerned with the position.

“This concern has been borne out by a number of tests carried out that indicated the possibility that asbestos dust exists outside the fenced area of works.”

Testing by Work Safe NZ last night confirmed asbestos within the fenced area, however further testing was needed to confirm that the area outside the fences was asbestos-free.

That testing is due to be carried out today, and while it may ultimately show that the site was safe, board representatives stated they were not satisfied with the school remaining open until that could be proven.

It was likely the school would be closed until Monday at the earliest, school representatives said.

A meeting with parents to discuss the issue was being planned. Board members were due to meet with ministry representatives this morning to obtain health and safety information that could be circulated to parents.

Bayfield School is a decile 10 school with around 380 Year 1 to Year 6 students.


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School shut down over asbestos risk

Asbestos removal projects planned for Roundhouse

One asbestos removal project was approved while another was let out to bid by the school board for the Marshalltown High School Roundhouse project during a meeting Monday.

The board approved a quote of $22,992 from REW Services of Ankeny to remove asbestos from thermal pipe insulation at the high school gym. The board also let out to bid an estimated $122,500 project to remove asbestos from the asphalt of the indoor running track at the Roundhouse.

Both projects were bid separately than the general construction project going on now as this work is done by specific asbestos removal companies.

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Two asbestos removal projects are planned for the Marshalltown High School Roundhouse as it undergoes a renovation. The Marshalltown School Board discusses the matter during a meeting Monday.

“Asbestos abatement is always a component of our construction projects,” said Rick Simpson, director of buildings and grounds with the district.

The thermal pipe asbestos removal is expected to be done at night and on weekends in May while the asphalt track asbestos removal is a June project, after bids are approved on May 5.

Simpson said the asphalt asbestos removal work will not slow up the general contractor working on the Roundhouse renovation as they plan to work on opposite ends of the facility.

“It’s not holding up construction,” Simpson said.

The asbestos removal items were the only two agenda items aside from policy work during a brief regular meeting of the board. The next regular meeting of the school board will be at 5:30 p.m. May 5 at Miller Middle School.

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Asbestos removal projects planned for Roundhouse

Asbestos delays demolition of old Billings library

Like most Billings residents, Bill Cochran thought he’d be seeing the old Parmly Billings Library coming down by now, making way for a 100-space parking lot, new entrance for the library and considerable landscaping just outside the library’s Community Room.

“Things haven’t happened as quickly as we’ve been telling people they would happen,” Cochran, the Billings library director, said Tuesday.

The discovery of what’s called non-friable asbestos in the fifth floor of the old library is contributing to the project delay of up to a month, Cochran said. 

Non-friable asbestos isn’t harmful because its fibers are bound and thus not a breathing hazard.

“There were small amounts in unexpected places — tars and window gaskets — things that ordinarily would have been demolished and taken to the landfill,” Cochran said. “Considerably more caution is being exercised.”

Northern Industrial Hygiene of Billings tested the window gasket and found it contained a small amount of non-friable asbestos.

“It won’t come loose, and it’s not dangerous,” he said, “but it does have to be removed.”

Other factors have contributed to the delay, Cochran said. A sub-contractor expecting its asbestos abatement duties to have been completed by now allowed a state license to expire; renewing the license involves a mandatory 10-day review period, Cochran said.

Without work to do at the site, contractors and sub-contractors are turning their attention to other projects, he said.

The demolition, being done by LM Excavating of Columbia Falls, will restart next week, Cochran said. The demolition work uses green principles in accordance with the new library’s LEED Gold building certification. LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

As the building comes down, clean materials like brick and concrete are separated from rebar — and, of course, from asbestos, wherever it’s found. The clean fill will be used in a boulder pit that will allow water taken from the new library’s roof to irrigate the landscaping.

The clean fill sits in neatly-stacked piles just west of the old library.

LM Excavating is expected on Monday to erect additional protective measures to ensure that as the old library comes down it does no damage to the new building. After that, the demolition can resume in earnest, with completion expected in late July. 

Cochran said a celebration upon culmination of the work is still being planned.

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Asbestos delays demolition of old Billings library

Asbestos found in beach hut roofs

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Asbestos found in beach hut roofs