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Auckland firm 'disregarded worker safety'

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 26/04/2017

Demolition work on three residential buildings in Auckland showed a clear disregard for safety, and placed workers and neighbours at significant risk of asbestos exposure, WorkSafe says.

The job carried out by P&M Demolition Specialists also landed the home owners with a large clean-up bill.

The company and sole director Jade Ngaha both pleaded guilty to charges under the Health and Safety Employment Act for failing to take all practicable steps to protect workers and others.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of $250,000, but North Shore District Court decided against imposing a fine because of the company's financial position.

Reparations of $36,000 were ordered in addition to the $13,000 already paid towards the clean-up.

WorkSafe chief inspector Keith Stewart says the dangers of asbestos have long been recognised, which is why the case was particularly disturbing.

An investigation found that the company and Mr Ngaha was told there was material containing asbestos on site, he said in a statement.

Despite this, there was neither a risk assessment nor a comprehensive survey to establish the location, condition and quantity of the material.

Demolition work proceeded with no safety controls in place and asbestos dust was was found well beyond the boundary of the worksite.

WorkSafe says asbestos is the single biggest cause of fatalities from work-related disease, which was responsible for an average of 170 deaths each year.

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