A Wellington contracting firm has been fined $10,000 after one of its employees was exposed to asbestos, live electricity and falling objects on a Chow brothers demolition site.
C&M Transport Ltd was sentenced on Tuesday in Wellington District Court after pleading guilty to one charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act of endangering a worker.
The charge relates to the January 2011 demolition of Wellington's historic Settlement restaurant on Willis St.
"It is extremely fortunate that the worker wasn't injured or made seriously ill carrying out this risky demolition work," Business, Innovation and Employment Ministry southern labour general manager Jean Martin said.
"This was a very badly managed worksite with failure throughout the chain of companies involved."
The former restaurant was owned by Wellington entrepreneurs Michael and John Chow, who planned to build a 12-storey apartment complex on the site.
Their company Willis St Parking was fined $24,000 earlier this year after admitting a similar charge of failing to keep an employee of their contractor, Concrete Drilling and Cutting (1992), safe on site. Concrete Drilling and Cutting was also fined $20,000 for the same incident.
C&M Transport had been engaged by Concrete Drilling and Cutting to carry out the demolition.
The Chows were initially hit with a stopwork notice for the Settlement site after it emerged the building pre-dated 1900, meaning any work required an archaeology authority from the Historic Places Trust.
Their company was later prosecuted by the former Labour Department for endangering contractors during the demolition after asbestos and live electricity was identified on the site.
Martin said this week's prosecution was the final act in a set of three charges.
The excavator that C&M's employee used to demolish the Settlement building did not provide adequate protection for the operator, she said. It did not have the correct falling objects protective structure fitted, and the front window and side door of the cab were also open, leaving the worker exposed to asbestos dust and falling objects.
"The employer exposed the employee to the potential of significant injury and health harm and showed total disregard for employer health and safety responsibilities," Martin said.
"The situation was avoidable and all practical steps were not taken to protect the employee. The electricity had not been disconnected from the site prior to demolition and testing identified that there was asbestos in the exterior sheeting that clad some of the building."
Martin said best practice guidelines for demolition were available on the ministry's website which all demolition companies and employees should be aware of and understand.
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