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Ann-Maree Pascoli providing Q & A on 2GB discussing asbestos – 10 March 2020

Ann-Maree Pascoli providing Q & A on the 2GB Deborah Knight Afternoon Show discussing Asbestos - 10 March 2020

Tuesday 10 March 2020 

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DK – Deborah Knight / AP – Ann-Maree Pascoli / C1,2,3, etc – Callers 

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DK      As we do every Tuesday. We have free legal advice for you with Turner Freeman Lawyers and the focus today is on asbestos. Because we know a lot of people affected by bushfires doing work to get back on their feet; to get their homes rebuilt – but their being hampered – many people because of asbestos. 40% of damaged properties have been found to contain hazardous material and it’s a huge risk for those living and working in these areas. A lot of local waste facilities I know just don’t have the capacity to store this material and it does beg the question for a lot of people. Do you transport it or should you build new waste facilities? How do we handle it? And if you are concerned about being impacted by asbestos, what should you do? Well that is the topic on our Legal Matters Segment this week. So give us a call, 131 873 is the number and as always, we have a $100 Westfield voucher to give away to the caller who ask the most relevant question of the day and Ann-Maree Pascoli is an accredited specialist in asbestos litigation. She knows what she’s talking about. She’s a partner at Turner Freeman’s Parramatta office and she’s on the line now.  Ann-Maree. Hello to you.

AP       How are you Deborah?

DK      I’m well.  It is a big issue isn’t it with asbestos?.

AP       It is.

DK      …. particularly after the bushfires.

AP       It is.  Absolutely. I think – because the thing about asbestos is, and particularly asbestos in home building materials is that it is not dangerous if it’s not being – you know – used in any way – but once the bushfires have come through and products have been damaged, the dust is out there. The products are friable and present quite a new danger.

DK      And in some areas I know – because the clean-up is beginning and there is a lot of work being done to get people back on their feet – communities back on their feet. But in some areas, asbestos is still out in the open and it’s not being covered.

AP       Yeah.

DK      Is that legal?

AP       Look – it’s probably not illegal, but it’s probably also very irresponsible. It’s – you know look – like I said before, if it’s not disturbed, it’s not a danger. But if it is there and it’s burnt and it’s dusty and the winds are blowing, then you know – it does present a danger and so it should be covered.

DK      So what should people do then if – because it is happening in some areas and a lot of Councils are saying air quality is safe and people aren’t allowed to close by it, but obviously the clean-up is under way, but in the interim, what should people be doing? Should they be wearing protective clothing or….. what’s the advice?

AP       Oh I think the advice is just “stay away”. You know you can contact the Environmental Protection Authority – and you know – they are going to get in touch with the Local Council and they’ll do what they can, but you know – from a purely practical perspective, just stay away. Unfortunately, you know giving protective clothing to people just in the area probably isn’t a real option.

DK      It’s not practical – yeah

AP       Yeah that’s right. So just stay away.

DK      All right – good advice. 131 873 is the number to call. If you have a question regarding asbestos in particular, Michael is on the line for us to kick things off in Fairfield West. Hi Michael.

Caller 1 – Michael

C1       Oh yes.  Hello. I have a friend who worked in a factory next to the Hardies factory where they were making the asbestos boards and he’s been to the doctor and has a problem with obstructive breathing problems and he’s wondering whether he can make a claim and how does he prove that was affected by the asbestos in the factory?

AP       Yeah look. If the obstructive disease or the breathing impairment is caused by an asbestos related disease, then absolutely he could look into making a claim and proving the exposure, we’ve done quite a lot of claims for people who have lived and worked in the factories next door to Hardies – so we – you know – we are lucky enough to have a lot of information to be able to help – but that is something we could help your friend with Michael if he wanted to call through our office and we could talk to him in more detail about that.

C1       Oh excellent. Okay thank you very much.

DK      All right – we’ll get those details through Michael – if you can stay on the line and we’ll pass that information on to you. Alex is with us too with a question. Hi Alex.

Caller 2 – Alex

C2       Hello – how are you?

DK      Well thank you.

C2       That’s the way. My question is throughout Sydney, especially in the industrial pockets or precincts, there’s a lot of factories that have corrugated asbestos roofing and the roofing is exposed to the elements and a lot of it was constructed in the 50’s. 60’s, 70’s and a lot of the public attending these factories – they get the bulky goods retails – uses and things like that – I believe that the public are exposed to this roofing that’s exposed to the elements with no ceiling over the top of it and I think it’s a big issue.

AP       Yeah look – potentially it could be and you know – in that way, we are reliant on these companies to make sure that the corrugated roofing is in good repair and if it’s not, certainly we’d expect them to be doing things to remove it.

C2       Has the government actually got a policy where they have instructed industrial owners to – you know inspect these roofs and ensure that they aren’t in disrepair or you know, they don’t have active fibres?

AP       Not to my knowledge, but it certainly – if anybody has any concerns like that – it’s certainly something you could raise with – you know with WorkCover or with the Environmental Protection Authority and they could look into it for anybody concerned.

DK      Yeah – All right – thank you for the call Alex. Fenji. You’ve got a question regarding people impacted by the bushfires?

Caller 3 – Fenji

C3       Oh yes I do.  I just – I’ve been working with a charity called “Picking up the Pieces” and we’ve been helping a family in Cobargo that weren’t burnt out, with accommodation and having stayed with that family for a couple of times on site, to say to “stay away” is not really practical for everyone that’s been burnt out there in terms of accommodation, within probably 20 minutes of their burnt out house which has been assessed and suspected of asbestos and they’re just waiting. So they’ve said to me – the family – that in the interim – the – Bega Valley Shire’s come over and sprayed a substance to try and stick the fibres down to stop making them airborne but that was before we’ve had all the rain – so – the practical issue of these families living – are on their properties just staying away…….

DK      Yeah – it’s impossible isn’t it? What’s your advice then in this case Ann-Maree? Because people are living just – you know next door – they can’t keep away. What can they do?

AP       Yeah. Look – it’s tricky if you can stay with family, stay with family. The other thing that you mentioned Fenji – the rain – the rain actually helps – so keeping the product wet and watered down actually helps because it’s the dust itself that’s dangerous – so as long as there’s no dust coming off the product, then it’s you know, relatively safe. So that might actually help. But you know, I’d be you know really getting behind the Local Council and asking them to do things quickly.

DK      Yeah – absolutely – put a bullet up them that’s for sure.

AP       Yeah.

DK      Thank you Fenji – we might take a quick break.  More of your calls – anything to do with asbestos issues, now’s the time. We’ll get the answers for you with Ann-Maree Pascoli from Turner Freeman Lawyers – 131 873 is the number and we’ve got a $100 gift voucher from Westfield as well for the best caller. So get your calls in. It’s a quarter to 2 or quarter to 1 in Queensland.

DK      And we are taking your calls on Legal Matters as we do every Tuesday with Turner Freeman Lawyers. Ann-Maree Pascoli is an accredited specialist in asbestos litigation and she is with us now to answer your questions. 131 873 is the number. Ray. You’ve got a good question here for Ann-Maree.

Caller 4 – Daniel— [Rayson]

C4       Hello there. It’s actually Daniel [Rayson] calling here.

DK      Oh there you go. Hi Daniel.

C4       Hello. How are you?

DK      Good.

C4       That’s good. I just had a question. So in my work place. I work at a bottle shop in the City.  One of the storage rooms has asbestos tags everywhere. Just warning that there’s asbestos in the building. There is an open manhole as well and they are supposed to be starting works in the roof this week putting in brand new air-cons. And like we are expected to be working in the building while that’s going on as well.

DK      So it’s go asbestos but it’s got signs and an open manhole – I guess you’re wondering is it danger?

C4       Yeah – so there are little labels around on the wall saying “Warning – this contains asbestos” and then – there’s also – yeah an open manhole into the roof.

AP       I would expect that – so the warnings are usually there so that tradesmen coming in and doing this type of work can you know stay away from it or not disturb it. Usually when you are seeing those – are you saying that the warning signs are on the walls or ……. manhole?

C4       Yeah.

AP       Okay – yeah – so that’s going to be a trigger for the tradesmen not to disturb it and you can certainly expect that if they were going to disturb it, that they would bringing in licensed people in and clearing out the building so that nobody could be exposed to the asbestos in the products.

DK      And what rights do you have Ann-Maree as a worker in those sort of situations if you’ve got concerns, can you say “I don’t want to do it” – I mean what’s the position that you’re in – because obviously if you are working on a building site – if there is asbestos there, what should you be doing?

AP       Well, I mean if you’re in Daniel’s situation, you know you should speak to your employer I guess and make sure that precautions are being taken and if you’re concerned at all, then I think you probably well within your rights to stay away. But if we’re talking about – you know – being in a building site and indirect contact with it or potentially in direct contact with it, I’d be insisting on precautions. Absolutely.

DK      Yeah – well within your rights to do it too. Peter – Peter in Narrabeen – what’s your question for Ann-Maree?

Caller 5 – Peter

C5       Yeah – Hi Ann-Maree. I just wanted to ask you about asbestos in rubbish tips – the only reason why I was going to ask you is because I had a conversation with a couple of guys that the local tip – a couple of months ago when I asked “should I be wearing a mask?” and they said “what on earth for?” – it’s – you’re in the general rubbish section and I said to them “well given that it is $76 for up to 100 kilos of asbestos, would it be fair to say there would be a few DIY people who aren’t willing to paying $76 for a couple of sheets who would just disguise it in general waste”. I know people who have admitted to me that they’ve done that.  So in a general waste section, it’s not only the workers of the tip but it’s the public. So my question is.  Are those people going to be able to claim and prove and is the government going to subsidise asbestos – you know – discarding of asbestos in the future? Because I think it would be a pretty good idea to stop people doing that.

AP       Yeah – I agree. I think definitely the government should be subsidising it. We’ve done a couple of claims for men who have been exposed to asbestos as a consequence of dumping or being at rubbish tips while products have been dumped. It’s meant to be covered and it’s meant to be in its own section. But you’re quite right, it doesn’t always happen that way. People cut corners and so you know, if there are people working in these rubbish tips that are concerned, I’d definitely be raising it with the employer.

DK      Yes it’s a good point to make though Peter – that is for sure. Darren in Redcliffe. Hello to you.

Caller 6 – Darren

C6       Hi. How are you going?

DK      Yeah – good.

C6       I live in a street where almost every roof is made of asbestos and it’s exactly the same asbestos that goes into pipes in the ground that I work with as well and if I left a piece of that pipe not wrapped in plastic and not labelled and put in the pipe dump and then wrapped in plastic again, I’d lose my job. But yes. I live next door to tonnes of it on the roof – it’s there every time it rains, it’s getting fibered off – birds are scratching it – hail and I just wondered is that safe or is that a ticking time-bomb?

AP       Oh look – it depends – like I said before – if it’s not being disturbed – you don’t really have to worry about it, but again if you – you know – you can see your neighbour’s roof looks like it’s in poor repair and you are concerned that it contains asbestos, call the Environmental Protection Authority and they can have a look into and certainly they can ask Local Council to look into it as well.

DK      Yeah – that’s a good point to make. And it’s one of those things isn’t it Ann-Maree that there are still some many questions about the fact because it is in so many buildings.

AP       Yes.

DK      Asbestos – isn’t it? I mean, what’s the percentage of how many buildings across Australia have asbestos in it?

AP       It’s something – I mean I don’t know what the current percentages are because certainly a lot of people have – you know are aware of the dangers now and remove it themselves. But in the 70’s – something like 70% of homes in NSW contain some kind of asbestos..

DK      Yeah right.

AP       building products so it’s a lot of it.

DK      Yeah – big issue – well look I reckon today, with our $100 gift voucher, we might send that out to Fenji who called in saying that they worked with people in bushfire affected areas, so we’ll send that out to Fenji for that call – a $100 gift voucher coming your way.  Ann-Maree – thank you so much for joining us.

AP       Thank you Deborah.

DK      And Ann-Maree Pascoli is an accredited specialist in asbestos litigation – she’s a partner at Turner Freeman’s Parramatta office and if you have any legal questions, they are the people to go to, Turner Freeman Lawyers and they always provide excellent advice and we do speak to them as we do every Tuesday and you can call 134 363 or visit turnerfreeman.com.au for more info. Deborah Knight with you.