23 Sep 2015

Employer exposed tradies to asbestos

2:05 pm on 23 September 2015

Two Christchurch tradesmen have won a case over their employer's failure to notify them immediately that they had been exposed to asbestos.

Neil Silcock and Liam Milner resigned from exterior building company Goleman Limited after they found out they had been exposed to asbestos while doing repairs on the roof of Christchurch Hospital in 2013.

The Employment Relations Authority has found Mr Silcock and Mr Milner were unjustifiably constructively dismissed, and that Goleman knew the site had tested positive for white asbestos eight days before it informed the two workers.

Goleman is considering appealing.

Lawyer David Beck told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme that the authority's decision was clear.

"There hadn't been effective communication about the positive test which meant the job wasn't immediately shut down and there was no provision of protective clothing for the workers as they continued to work on the building.

"That was seen to be a serious breach of their obligation to provide a healthy and safe workplace."

But Mr Beck said the company was not solely to blame for the situation.

He said the manufacturer of the product and government agencies also had to share some of the responsibility.

"I wouldn't sheet all of the blame on the company for some systemic issues.

"I think the Employment Relations Authority found that the manner in which they handled the asbestos exposure was deficient.

"But I think there are some, you know...lessons to be learned from government agencies as well as companies having to deal with this situation," Mr Beck said.