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Asbestos management in Christchurch investigation Canterbury Home Repair Programme.

#1 User is offline   hukildaspida 

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Posted 12 December 2014 - 03:41 PM

No prosecutions in Chch asbestos investigation
2:05 PM Tuesday Oct 21, 2014


Christchurch CBD

Photo / Thinkstock Photo / Thinkstock

An investigation into how asbestos was managed in Christchurch after the 2011 earthquake has found some deficiencies but no reason to prosecute anyone.

WorkSafe New Zealand has completed its review of asbestos management in the
WorkSafe launched the inquiry earlier this year after allegations surfaced about possible inadequacies in the Earthquake Commission (EQC) and Fletcher EQR's systems for identifying and managing asbestos hazards during early stages of the Canterbury rebuild.

Gordon MacDonald, WorkSafe chief executive, said the investigation did find some deficiencies in the management of asbestos during early parts of the Home Repair Programme.

However, WorkSafe said the risk of harm to workers and residents was very low and prosecution was not justified. The risk to residents was likely to have been even lower, WorkSafe said.

"Given the scale of work in Canterbury it's inevitable there were instances where work was not up to best practice and our investigation did identify shortcomings with the management of asbestos," Mr MacDonald said.

"It has to be remembered that in the weeks and months after the Canterbury earthquakes there was an incredible amount of work done - both demolitions and emergency repairs. People and organisations were stretched and conditions were far from ideal," he added.

Mr MacDonald said contractors had significantly improved the way they managed asbestos. He said WorkSafe and its Canterbury Rebuild Safety Charter [b]partners
had also educated tradespeople and contractors about health risks asbestos posed.

WorkSafe said the investigation included reviews of EQC and Fletcher EQR documentation, their systems and processes. It also included interviews with management, contractors and residents.

Investigators also carried out property inspections and asbestos testing in a few houses - including surface and air testing.

WorkSafe said it also hired independent experts to review research conducted on behalf of Fletcher EQR into breathable fibre release during certain types of repair work.


#2 User is offline   hukildaspida 

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Posted 12 December 2014 - 03:44 PM

WorkSafe asbestos investigation 'meaningless'
Last updated 12:34 22/10/2014

SAFETY FIRST: An asbestos removal company employee at work in the city. Earthquake demolition work has increased complaints of exposure.

Homeowners and contractors are angry over the results of an investigation into asbestos management in Christchurch's residential rebuild.

WorkSafe New Zealand scrutinised the Earthquake Commission's (EQC) Canterbury home repair programme (CHRP), following allegations against EQC and Fletcher EQR's handling of asbestos risks.

It found deficiencies in the management of asbestos during the early phases of the residential rebuild, but prosecution was not justified given the scale of work in Canterbury.

Christchurch plumber and homeowner Daniel Moore
was ''very angry'' at the result.

He claimed his family had been exposed to asbestos during quake repairs and Fletcher EQR should be facing charges.

''WorkSafe basically says it is acceptable to expose families to a low amount of asbestos. No exposure is acceptable.''

He said he had lost confidence in Christchurch authorities and planned to move out of Christchurch.

Architectural technician David Reynolds
said he lived with the fear his family had been exposed to asbestos.

''People in my situation have to live with that fear for the next 20 years because asbestos takes such a long time to manifest . . . and people in charge get to walk away with all this.''

Reynolds said Fletcher EQR contractors who were not wearing protective clothing or masks had carried material at risk of containing asbestos through his kitchen without care, and some was left exposed in the home's only toilet while his young children were home.

He said he considered legal action and called for an independent investigation of the home repair programme.

WorkSafe chief executive Gordon MacDonald
said the investigation found the risk to workers and residents was very low.

In the early days of the repair programme, there had been a ''failure to test for the presence of asbestos before work commenced on it'' in certain cases.

''People and organisations were stretched in that period and conditions were far from ideal,'' he said.

MacDonald could not say how long that period had lasted.

"It's not a black-and-white period when it was all wrong and then it was all right.''

As part of the investigation, WorkSafe tested about 13 houses that had been repaired in the early days of the home repair programme ''to get a feel for the level of risk''.

No asbestos fibres were found in those houses, he said.

MacDonald said he would not ''speculate'' on how many houses might have been at risk.

''We are talking about thousands of repairs. We never set out to exhaustively check every house that has been repaired.''

Fletcher EQR started to impose mandatory asbestos tests on houses built between 1940 and 1990 in June 2012.

Fletcher EQR contractor Bruce West earlier this year called for retrospective asbestos testing of homes repaired before then.

He feared ''thousands'' of repairs had been completed without testing, with about 12,000 workers, as well as homeowners, potentially exposed to asbestos.

West, who was interviewed as part of the investigation, said he did not believe the investigation had been thorough enough.

''Only 13 houses have been back-checked. It's meaningless.''

He called for an independent review of EQC and EQR.

''A government department investigating a government department is not likely to produce any result.''

MacDonald said WorkSafe came to its own conclusions irrespective of the organisation it investigated.

Retrospective testing of all houses repaired before June 2012 would be a ''mammoth undertaking'', he said.

EQC estimated last year that in 10 per cent of cases, asbestos found in ceilings or walls was encased behind plasterboard, instead of being removed.

WorkSafe previously said this could put tradesmen at risk in future repairs.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey last week said an opportunity to remove asbestos from earthquake-damaged homes had been wasted.

MacDonald said systematically removing asbestos would be another ''mammoth'' task that would give rise to increased risks. In some cases, it was better to live asbestos undisturbed.

EQC and Fletcher EQR said WorkSafe's decision not to lay any charges endorsed progressive improvements to the home repair programme's management of asbestos risk.

- The Press

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