Case Study 1: Government department portfolio

The situation 

A government department with an extensive portfolio of properties had a visit from WorkSafe NZ looking for a site-specific asbestos management plan.  Due to some confusion on site, the plan was unable to be produced.  The Department was ordered to provide a plan to the regulator within a period of time; however, as a result of personnel changes, the window to comply became quite narrow. 

The visit was a catalyst for the Department to complete comprehensive surveys of all properties built prior to 2000 and other locations in newer sites based on a risk assessment, to inform site-specific management plans.  A critical success factor was the ability for the Department and its contractor to be able to view all the risks, including by number and severity, across the portfolio and individual site without incurring additional cost. 

MCG’s solution

MCG quoted to survey the first site, including an estimate of the number of samples that would need to be taken.  We used records from previous surveys wherever possible, to avoid duplication and reduce cost.  We put two competent surveyors on the job and quickly mobilised them to get the survey of the large and complex site done. 

In the meantime, we worked with the facilities team to develop a fit-for-purpose template for their site-specific management plans, that could be populated as soon as we had the survey data. 

The plan was provided to the regulator on time.  The Department was pleased to receive very positive feedback from the regulator about the quality of the plan. 

Subsequent surveys were undertaken of the rest of the portfolio, based on quoted time and an estimate of the samples that would be required.  During the first survey, MCG asked the Department if we could move to an Open Book arrangement, as it was apparent we had over-estimated the time and number of samples required.  We pride ourselves on being independent of laboratories as well as removal companies and are much more comfortable with this approach. 

MCG provided asbestos awareness training to the facilities and health and safety teams.  We also provided training at no charge to members of the facilities team on how to get the most out of the information in the client portal and maintain the site registers.  They appreciate that we are there to support them as required. 

We have been developing scopes of work for the required remediation, to issue to removalists.  When we receive their quotes (which can vary widely!), we complete a summary for the client that explains the differences in terms of the risks being managed, and provide an estimate of our costs as the assessor, based on the methodologies proposed by the removalists.  Our client thus has a clear understanding of the risks and costs of remediation to inform their decision-making. 

Once we have cleared the site for re-occupation, we update the asbestos register and relevant management plan with the new risk status.  The clearance certificate, including associated air monitoring, is available to view on the client portal

If you are looking for a partner to help your role as kaitiaki of your workplace, contact Major Consulting Group Ltd on 0800 44 00 70.

Case Study 2: Competent contractors

The situation 

A PCBU’s weakest link is generally its workers, particularly those workers contracted or sub-contracted to do maintenance and servicing work on older properties or refurbishments.  MCG’s experience is that most of these workers and their employers insist they do not do “asbestos-related work” even though the Asbestos regulations clearly indicate they do.  As a result, they naively work around asbestos-containing materials without effective safe work methods or any personal protective equipment. 

After one such contractor finished a fit-out, it cost our client $100,000 to remediate the floor of the asbestos contamination. 

MCG’s solution 

MCG understands the A word is scary.  It sounds complicated and expensive.  Many people would rather not know.  Many of the contractors we talk to say they don’t want to make things awkward for their client.  Getting them prosecuted would be awkward! 

We love working with people who want to know what they need to do to keep their people safe.  We’ve worked hard to make it as easy as possible to work safely: 

  • We provide practical, interactive Asbestos Aware Plus training to people who do work involving asbestos, including DIYers 
  • MCG donates $20 to the Cancer Society for every person who attends our Asbestos Aware Plus course 
  • We sell pre-packaged asbestos kits based on the level of risk the workers will be confronting; all they need to do is grab it and go
  • The kits include safe work methods and “cheat sheets” to remind them of what they learnt during our training
  • Asbestos Aware Plus-certified attendees receive a discount for purchases of our kits

The pre-packaged kits save the contractors time and money and help them to understand the actual cost to be passed onto their clients. 

What can you do? 

  • Ask to see your workers’ wallet card showing they are certified MCG Asbestos Aware, to receive assurance that they have your back. 
  • Sign up to MCG’s Facebook group – Asbestos Aware Certified – to find MCG-certified workers.  They’re looking for you and will appreciate that you understand their level of skill! 
  • Sign up for MCG’s Asbestos Awareness course.  We’ll give you a better understanding of how you can sensibly manage the risks as well as provide you with the questions to ask to confirm your workers are competent.

Case Study 3: Contaminated soil

The situation 

MCG was called in by a Government agency concerned about asbestos-contaminated soil.  The soil had been tested and found to contain asbestos.  The agency requested our assistance to sensibly remediate the risk, having regard for the extent of presumed contamination, access issues and the sensitive nature of the site.  

MCG’s solution 

Upon closer examination, we found the previous tests had simply confirmed the presence of asbestos: It hadn’t determined the actual risk of exposure to respirable fibres.  The tests also hadn’t identified the extent of contamination. 

Our first step, therefore, was to conduct a comprehensive survey with air monitoring to identify the extent of the contamination and risk of exposure.  As a result of our tests, we were able to significantly narrow down the area requiring remediation. 

The next challenge was to come up with a plan to sensibly remediate the area as access was problematic. 

MCG conducted international research and consulted with engineers, concrete experts and Suitably Qualified Experienced Persons (SQEPs) to develop costed options for the client to consider, having regard for their risk appetite.  The options paper can be used as appropriate to develop a scope of works to quote for the remediation of the area.

Case Study 4: Chemical Contamination

The situation

MCG was called in by an insurance company to advise on how best to remediate a private residence after two industrial-sized borer bombs were released.  One of the bombs was suitable for a 2000m² warehouse.  Two released in a 250m² home resulted in the occupants being systemically poisoned so they could not safely enter the property.  The dog also died. 

MCG’s solution 

MCG’s occupational hygienist drew up a plan to remediate the property, as far as possible.  Soft furnishings needed to be disposed of, while hard coverings needed careful cleaning. 

MCG met a cleaner on site who proposed to use oxygen to clean the surfaces.  A quick check by MCG’s occupational hygienist confirmed cyanide would be produced if oxygen was applied!  (The cleaning company was subsequently dismissed following evidence of wilful disregard for the safety of themselves of others as they ignored the explicit advice of MCG’s occupational hygienist.) 

MCG project managed the remediation and tested the property to confirm the clean had been effective.  We also helped the homeowners to safely sift through their personal items, saving what was possible and safely disposing of everything else. 

All parties were kept informed throughout the assignment, so that any additional stresses were minimised. 

The homeowners were grateful for the support MCG provided during an extremely harrowing time for them.  The insurance agent appreciated our promptness and professionalism in identifying and dealing with the challenges of the assignment. 

Case Study 5: When you’re just a tenant

The situation 

A government department is a tenant in its properties.  Ideally, the landlord will meet their responsibility as the PCBU to identify asbestos risks in the workplace and put in place a process to manage them.  However, that is not always the case. 

As a PCBU with management and control over a workplace, the Department has the same duty as the landlord.  When the landlord fails in their duty, the Department must be ready to step into the breach. 

MCG’s solution 

MCG was asked to develop a National Asbestos Management Strategy for the Department, to manage the risks when their landlords fail to identify asbestos risks and to guide leasing decisions in the future. 

We started by understanding the extent of the risk, completing a desktop survey of the Department’s tenancies to triage the risk.  We then developed correspondence for the Department to request information from landlords that would allow the Department to fulfil its duty of care.  At the least, this showed the Department was consulting, cooperating and endeavouring to coordinate activities in relation to their premises. 

MCG reviewed the information received to assess whether it was sufficient to meet the PCBU’s duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act and Asbestos regulations.  To address the risks where the information was insufficient and to manage property risks going forward, MCG developed a national asbestos management strategy for the Department that provided a decision-making framework.   

A global asbestos management plan was also developed to manage contractor risks in particular, based on the presumption of asbestos in all properties built prior to 1 January 2000.