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Sun September 19 2021

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First builder sentenced under new NZ asbestos rules

8 Nov 18 A builder in New Zealand is the first to be fined under strict new rules relating to asbestos removal.

Unqualified and unsafe asbestos removal landed Richard John Knight in the Christchurch District Court. Knight was unlicensed for an asbestos demolition job carried out on a Riccarton building in February 2017.  He was charged under sections 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.

Health and safety regulator WorkSafe said that the sentencing is the first of its kind under the country’s new asbestos regulations and relates to strict new rules around licensing.

The worker did have experience in the construction industry and in demolition, but he was not licensed to manage the removal of asbestos. Nor had he obtained the required certification for the work he completed.

“Mr Knight required a Class A removal license for the job – but instead of ensuring a competent person was engaged, decided to flout the law” said WorkSafe’s head of specialist interventions, Simon Humphries.

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The judge took a starting point of NZ$10,000 (£5,150) and allowed discounts for an early guilty plea, co-operation with WorkSafe and good character, as this was Humphries’ first offence. A reduced fine of NZ$3,000 was imposed. The judge took into account Knight’s financial situation - he had been adjudicated bankrupt in September 2018; and his company RM Solutions was liquidated in May 2017. The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding NZ$20,000.

WorkSafe’s inquiries found that in addition to not being licensed for the job he completed, he also failed to manage safely the risk of asbestos in the demolition of the house. This included failing to decontaminate equipment used in the demolition and failing to wear appropriate protective equipment. He also allowed other people to enter the house unprotected.

Knight also deceived the building owners into thinking he was licensed to complete the work, said Worksafe.

Asbestos is an extremely dangerous product and we have regulations in place for a reason - to keep workers and the public safe, said Humphries. “This worker was deceitful and dangerous and we don’t need these sorts of people working in the construction industry.”

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