NZ company fined $150K over botched residential demolition job

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A company in New Zealand was fined $150,000 at the Auckland District Court after a botched demolition job in a residential area left a person trapped in her property and workers at risk of exposure to asbestos.

During the 2017 incident, the earthmoving company used two large diggers to pull a house down in Point Chevalier. The wall collapsed on a neighbour’s driveway damaging the side of their house. It also hit a gas terminal causing a leak. The area needed to be vacated. However, a neighbor was trapped at the back of her property after her driveway was covered in debris. Emergency services had to build a ramp to allow them to rescue her.

Robert Birse, WorkSafe’s Principal Advisor Asbestos said the company committed many failures including safely demolishing the house and safely managing a property they suspected had asbestos.

“The company should have hired someone with experience to identify whether asbestos was present and remove the asbestos before demolition commenced,” said Mr. Birse.

Mr. Birse said the company failed to consult and coordinate with other businesses involved in the project, which resulted in the poor management of demolition risks and uncertainty around who was responsible for managing risks.

“The company were completely out of their depth. There was no demolition management plan in place, inadequate risk assessment and workers were not provided with adequate training and procedures on how to conduct demolition,” he said.

“This demolition job was botched from the beginning and the company is extremely luck no-one was seriously injured or killed.”

Aside from the imposed fined, the Judge also ordered an adverse publicity order on the company requiring them to publish on their website the offence, consequences, and penalty imposed.

The Judge imposed two work health and safety project orders requiring the company to deliver a training seminar targeted at those working within the construction and residential property development sectors and specifically where key personnel have English as a second language. The company is also required to engage a health and safety expert to deliver a training programme to all of the company’s employees covering the practical management of hazards and risks they are exposed to at work.

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