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‘Deceitful’ builder first to be fined under NZ’s new asbestos regulations

A builder in New Zealand who deceived building owners into thinking he was licensed to safely carry out demolition work in a Christchurch property where asbestos was present has become the first person to be prosecuted under the country’s new asbestos removal law.

‘Deceitful’ builder first to be fined under NZ’s new asbestos regulations
Image credit: © iStock/ ved007

Richard John Knight was prosecuted under ss 206(1)(a), (b) and 3(a) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, and the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016 at Christchurch District Court and fined NZ$3,000 (£1,562).

New Zealand OSH regulator WorkSafe found that, as well as working without a Class A removal licence – which ensures a competent person is engaged to carry out the work –  Knight had also failed to obtain the required certification for the work he completed.

The builder also failed to safely manage the risk of asbestos during the demolition process at the Riccarton, Christchurch building in February 2017. WorkSafe found he did not decontaminate equipment used in the demolition, failed to wear appropriate protective equipment and allowed other people to enter the house unprotected. 

WorkSafe said the sentencing was the first of its kind under New Zealand’s new asbestos regulations, which set stricter rules on licensing.

Sentencing Judge Gary MacAskill took a starting point of NZ$10,000 (£5,150) for the fine and allowed discounts for Knight’s early guilty plea, co-operation with WorkSafe and good character, as this was his first offence. In imposing the NZ$3,000 penalty, he also considered Knight’s financial situation; the builder had been declared bankrupt in September 2018 and his company RM Solutions was liquidated in May 2017. Under the new regulations, the maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding NZ$20,000 (£10,300).

“Asbestos is an extremely dangerous product and we have regulations in place for a reason – to keep workers and the public safe,” said WorkSafe’s head of specialist interventions, Simon Humphries.

“The worker was deceitful and dangerous and we don’t need these sorts of people working in the construction industry.”

Nick Warburton is deputy editor of IOSH Magazine 

Comments

$3,000 is a bit weak. New Zealand needs to take a tougher stance if it's going to stamp out asbestos offences, as we've seen in the UK. Hit them hard in the wallet.

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