Jail penalty for asbestos dumper

By Jeff Salton on June 5th, 2018
  1. Risk Management
  2. Hazard Identification


The dangers of asbestos have been highlighted in three separate incidents.

Under tough anti-dumping legislation that was introduced by the NSW Government back in 2014, last week serial asbestos dumper Dib Hanna was jailed for three years, with a non-parole period of two years and three months, and ordered to clean up the dumped waste, pay the EPA’s costs and advertise his offences in newspapers.

This penalty serves “as an important warning to those thinking of breaking the law”, said NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton. “Illegal dumping, especially of asbestos waste, is a serious environmental crime and NSW has tough laws to prevent it.” She added that the government won’t tolerate any behaviour that “flagrantly puts the health of the community and the environment at risk”.

Mr Hanna was charged by the NSW Environment Protection Authority with eight offences against section 144AB (“Repeat waste offenders”) of the State Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 after delivering soil heavily contaminated with asbestos and other waste to four properties that ordered clean top soil from him.

He pleaded guilty to five offences. The Court found Mr Hanna had unlawfully transported and dumped building waste on “numerous” occasions in the past decade.

Last year, in Worksafe Qld v Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads (2017), Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads (Company), a major provider of transport infrastructure projects throughout Queensland, was involved in repairing a bridge that contained asbestos but had no documentation stating the bridge contained asbestos and no safety procedures or asbestos precautions in place.

Not being informed of the asbestos, the workers were instructed to use power drills on site, which created a lot of dust.

Unacceptable and harsh

The Magistrate described the workplace as an unacceptable and harsh work environment, and noted there was an absence of any identification, testing and safety plans for asbestos.

Although the Company cooperated with the regulator and had spent a significant monetary amount on remedial work, the Court imposed a fine of $175,000 due to the seriousness of the potential life-threatening exposure that affected a number of workers.

Sadly, South Australian asbestos campaigner, Terry Miller OAM, has died aged 76.

Mr Miller developed severe asbestosis following 20 years of working in James Hardie’s Adelaide plant. After asbestosis forced his early retirement in 2002, he formed the Asbestos Victims Association – a group that provides practical support to victims and their families.

He has been remembered for his “tireless” advocacy work.

The Asbestos Victims Association lobbied the SA parliament to pass legislation to fast-track the compensation process for victims.

Lessons for employers

Asbestos continues to be a serious safety concern in Australia. Businesses still need to implement effective risk management strategies that address the risk of exposing workers to asbestos.

The Health & Safety Handbook chapter on asbestos describes in detail the dangers of dealing with asbestos and how business-owners can control the risks workers may be exposed to.

Many workplaces unknowingly contain asbestos. Read through the chapter to understand your legal obligations in relation to asbestos, and how you can remove it safely if it is discovered at your workplace.


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