A handyman is issued a work order by a managing agent to remove some vinyl flooring in a rental property in preparation for the installation of new flooring. Not having any experience or knowledge where asbestos is likely to be in a domestic home the handyman rips up the asbestos backed vinyl flooring and contaminates the unit with deadly asbestos fibers.
Queensland Workplace Health and Safety (QWHS) are called and the unit is evacuated the tenants are relocated until the unit is safe to enter ( this took 3 months ) . Hygienists are called to survey the unit and to establish the extent of the contamination . The hygienists deem the contamination to be extensive and recommend all items in the home that cannot be decontaminated be destroyed as asbestos waste .Just to give you some idea of what this included .
All carpets All curtains All furniture ( couches , beds etc)All white goods ( dishwasher,dryer,washing machine , fridge)All kitchen equipment (kettle,toaster mix master etc )All clothing All electrical equipment (TV, DVD player computers , printers,scanners)All linen and towelsAll children’s toys
Pretty much everything in the unit !
The outcomes For those involved
The tenant and his family were relocated for a period of 3 months and had pretty much all of their belongings destroyed . They have been registered with the national asbestos contamination register and it is unsure what the long term health affects will be . They also successfully gained an out of court settlement for $50,000.00 for replacement of all goods .
The owner/managing agent/handyman
These two parties shared in the $50,000.00 settlement ,the refurbishing of the unit , the costs of decontamination of the unit,relocation of the tenant, the hygienists costs and their own legal fees another $50,000.00 bringing the total loss to $100,000.00 .The handyman also placed on the asbestos contamination register with an unknown future.
The sting in the Tail!Asestos is what is called a ” treaty exclusion ” in simple terms unless you are an asbestos industry professional and have asbestos specific insurance you are not covered for asbestos related claims. The $100,000.00 less was funded by entirely by the owner , handyman and managing agent.
What could have been done to prevent this ?
Having an asbestos management plan which contained a register which documents the likelihood of asbestos containing materials in this property could have prevented this . This could have prevented all this unnecessary stress and cost .