WorkSafe Prosecution Corner

18 Nov 2020

Friable asbestos must only be removed by a licensed asbestos removalist, says WorkSafe.

This messaging comes after an unlicensed South Island handyman removed friable asbestos and was fined $15,000 in the Christchurch District Court yesterday. Glenn Warwick Sibley operated a business specialising in the repair and maintenance of buildings.

In 2018, Sibley was hired to complete renovation work on a Queenstown property and the work included the removal and replacement of ceiling tiles which had friable asbestos present, which is asbestos that can be crumbled or crushed by hand.

WorkSafe’s Principal Advisor Asbestos Rob Birse said after work began to take place, WorkSafe received a notification that the ceiling was being removed unsafely.

“A non-disturbance notice was issued, and later testing came back positive for the presence of asbestos.”

As a result, an investigation was launched. The investigation found that Sibley was aware asbestos had been detected in the house but was not a licensed asbestos removalist at the time work was undertaken.

“Friable asbestos is an extremely dangerous material which poses health risks such as lung disease or even cancer when disturbed. WorkSafe does not take these matters lightly.

“If you need to remove friable asbestos it must be done safely by a licensed asbestos removalist.

“Sibley did not conduct a risk assessment or have an asbestos removal control plan around the removal of the friable asbestos. He also failed to ensure he or his workers had correct personal protective equipment when removing the ceiling tiles. It is fair to say he exposed his workers to asbestos fibres.

“This was a completely botched asbestos removal job which put workers at risk.”