26 September 2023

Worksafe warns on hosing asbestos roofs

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Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has reissued a warning about the dangers of using high-pressure water cleaners on asbestos roofs.

The warning follows two recent incidents involving the outlawed practice and several others in the past year.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland’s Chief Advisor (Occupational Health and Hygiene), Brad Geinitz said that at worst this could significantly impact the lives of friends, family and neighbours, while those who chose to engage in the dangerous practice also risked big fines and even bigger clean-up bills.

“The latest incidents on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane highlight the importance of reinforcing the asbestos safety message,” Mr Geinitz said.

“Under Queensland laws you can’t use certain tools and work methods when you’re dealing with asbestos-containing materials as they can generate dangerous airborne fibres.”

He said it was illegal to use high-pressure water spray equipment on the materials, including asbestos cement roofs, fences and walls.

“High-pressure cleaners destroy the binding matrix of asbestos building products, releasing cement debris and asbestos fibres into the air, which then results in widespread contamination, putting people’s health at risk,” Mr Geinitz said.

“Business owners have a duty to ensure workers and others are not exposed to the risk of airborne asbestos.”

He said earlier in the year a local handyman was fined $3,000 for removing asbestos from a Paddington home without a licence, using a wrecking bar to remove the material in an uncontrolled manner, then illegally disposing of it.

“A couple of years earlier, a house painter’s failure to protect his workers and the public from asbestos was labelled disgraceful by a Brisbane magistrate. The painter too was fined $3,000 for breaches of Queensland’s work safety laws.”

Mr Geinitz said this kind of cowboy behaviour was illegal, dangerous and utterly ridiculous.

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