Ann-Maree Pascoli with Deborah Knight discussing asbestos
Ann-Maree Pascoli providing Q & A on the 2GB Deborah Knight Afternoon Show discussing "Asbestos" 26 June 2020
Tuesday 26 June 2020
DK – Deborah Knight / AP – Ann-Maree Pascoli / C1,2,3, etc – Callers
DK Now today in legal matters we are talking asbestos, and it’s a big concern for so many people. You might have been exposed to it, or concerned that you’ve been exposed to it in the work place. What are your rights? What can you do? You might be worried that a loved one could have breathed in these deadly fibres. What are your legal rights? If you’ve got a question to do with asbestos, give me a call now on 131873. A lot of home renos going on, a lot of people in home isolation fixing up the place, and there are real question marks about asbestos and what you can do, how you need to be extra careful and what happens if you think you are exposed. Ann-Maree Pascoli is an accredited specialist in asbestos litigation, she’s a partner at Turner Freeman’s Parramatta office, and she’s on the line for us now. Ann-Maree thanks for joining us.
AP Thanks for having me Deb.
DK We know that asbestos is still in a lot of homes across the country, a lot of older homes, it is a real risk, isn’t it, for people who are doing home renos.
AP It absolutely is Deb, it’s everywhere. Something like 70% of homes in NSW had some sort of asbestos cement building product built into it during the 60’s and 70’s so it’s a huge concern.
DK And what do you look out for, because, how do you know if it is asbestos or not?
AP You don’t. That’s why it’s really important that if you suspect at all, you get an expert in to tell you whether or not there is asbestos present.
DK Is it an age thing? If a building has been constructed in a certain time frame, is it pretty much a given that there will be some asbestos in it?
AP Yea look, if it’s definitely fibro, and it’s constructed before, say, the early 80’s there’s a very very good chance it contains asbestos. Anything post about 82/83 probably doesn’t, but sometimes it’s very difficult to even tell the difference between fibro and gyprock, so if you’re not sure, get the experts in and they can tell you.
DK And when you say get the experts in, they get them in to (a) gauge whether it’s there and (b) remove it for you. You’ve got to be licenced to remove it don’t you.
AP You absolutely do. They come in, they will test whether or not there is asbestos present, and if so, they will remove it safely so that it doesn’t put you or your family or any of your neighbours or anything like that at risk.
DK Alright, so if all of that fails, and if you are concerned that you have been exposed to asbestos, what are the health implications, or the potential health implications?
AP It depends on the extent of your exposure, but the biggest concern with small exposures, which is what most home renovators are going to be at risk of, is mesothelioma, which is essentially a terminal cancer that is untreatable, so one fibre, one minor exposure, that’s enough to get mesothelioma.
DK And then, this is where you come in, as the lawyer, the legal team, what do you need to prove in court if you believe your health has been affected by asbestos to be able to access compensation or access help in some way.
AP Well, you have to prove exposure to asbestos obviously, if we’re talking about home renovations, we generally have to identify either a manufacturer of the product, so who manufactured the product, or if you’re doing it in the course of employment, so if you’re a building doing renovations to a home, then we have to identify your employer.
DK And if you work on your house and you end up with mesothelioma, that terrible condition, is it your fault because you didn’t take proper precautions, or is it the manufacturer’s issue?
AP It’s absolutely the manufacturer’s issue. So, Hardie’s for example knew that this stuff was dangerous from the 1940’s and failed to put any kind of warning or instructions about safe usage on the product or in their brochures, so it’s absolutely on the manufacturers.
DK And is there an element of personal responsibility though, because now that we are aware, obviously back then we weren’t, but now that we are aware of the dangers, how much personal responsibility do you have if you don’t do the right thing, if you don’t get in the licensed professionals.
AP Now, if you know that asbestos is dangerous, and you do a renovation and that exposes a neighbour to risk of harm, for example, there could absolutely be implications for you.
DK Alright. You may have a question for Ann-Maree Pascoli from Turner Freeman Lawyers, give us a call now on 131 873. George is on the line, g’day George what’s your question?
C1 I’m just curious about what lawyers have done about getting rid of asbestos rather than helping people that have already been infected by it? Because from my understanding is that once you have mesothelioma, there’s no turning back. Whereas if we invested a little bit more time and money into actually getting rid of this product, or making it more affordable, I live in a home that is made completely out of asbestos, and I have to get rid of it, but the cost is more than the recladding cost. So it’s going to cost me more to get rid of what of got than it is to coat my home in a new cladding that isn’t dangerous. I just find the situation ridiculous.
DK Yea, it’s a good question George, we’ll see if Ann-Maree has a response to it.
AP I absolutely 100% agree with George. don’t think the government does enough to firstly help people identify whether its present in their homes, and secondly, to affordably take it out of their homes, and I think they probably need to be doing more to subsidise it or to be regulating costs, but I completely agree.
DK Yea, it’s a good point to make George, thank you. Jan’s got a question for us too, hi Jan.
C2 Hello, yes, we have a roof being removed as I speak, right now, next door to us and they’ve just done our side of it, it’s a big house, and they’re going to take at least a week they said to remove the imitation slates and their asbestos. This is new owners, they’ve just bought the house, and they’ve just found it. So as far as I can see they’re doing the right thing, the only thing they haven’t done, which I was told they would do, was hose down the roof.
AP Yea, that’s unusual that they haven’t done that, but look, the great thing is Jan that if they’re taking all the proper precautions, it’s very very unlikely that it will be a danger to you or your family.
DK But it’s worth keeping a close eye on it, isn’t it Ann-Maree, because obviously you’ve got to make the assumption but not leave anything to chance, if you’re a neighbour, that’s for sure. We’ll take a quick break, more of your calls 131 873 we’re talking legal matters here on afternoons with Deborah Knight. A question on the text line Ann-Maree wondering if gyprock could become a future problem?
AP Gyprock itself, no I don’t think so. In the 60’s and 70’s sometimes gyprock had jointing cement that joined the internal sheeting together and that contained asbestos until the early 70’s, but, unless that’s happened, no I don’t foresee that it would be a potential problem in the future.
DK Alright, Michael’s called in in Leichhart in NSW with a question, g’day Michael.
C3 G’day Deb, how are you?
DK Yea good.
C3 That’s good. Yea I’m a health officer for a local council and I don’t know if they realise that you can take up to 10-20 metres of asbestos away yourself, you don’t have to be licenced to do it. It’s kind of like a loop hole, so it doesn’t technically say just 10 square metres, so you can then take 10 square metres a day, so if you’ve got 100 square metres you can do it yourself, so it’s kind of like a loop hole that, because you deal with it on a daily basis, but people tend to do that and then it’s kind of worse because they still have to take it away correctly, but there’s this loop hole where it allows mums and dads to take 10 squares but builders get onto it and they know that, oh well, we’ll just take 10 squares today and then 10 squares tomorrow, and so they don’t have to go through that licencing process to get a licenced person in to do it.
DK That is interesting Michael, because yea, it’s costly too, because people are trying to avoid the cost of that with the licencing process, but that’s an interesting point to make Michael. Ann-Maree have you come across people trying to get around the rules with that sort of loop hole?
AP I haven’t. You’ve just taught me something Michael that I didn’t know, and that is frightening, and that is probably exactly the problem because people do try and do it themselves and then expose themselves to risk.
DK Well that’s a loop hole that needs to be shut down, because that exposes people to longer term risk as well.
AP That’s exactly right, it’s frightening.
DK Good on you Michael, thank you for letting us know about that. We might chase that up too. Bob’s called in with a question, hi Bob.
C4 Hi. I worked in asbestos as a contractor for 9 years with James Hardie, I think I’ve lost you there…
DK No we’re here, we’re here Bob.
C4 Oh sorry. Yea… as a contractor for 9 years solely carting asbestos pipes and periodically the Dust Board contact me and I go in for a lung function test every 2 or 3 years and I get very heavily congested of a morning, but I get conflicting reports from their doctor, they seem to change doctors down there a bit, and one will say you’ve only calcified nodes outside the lungs, which is caused by the asbestos, and another one will say well you have got some inside your lung, and I just wondered if there’s any recourse for compensation.
DK Yea, good question Bob. Ann-Maree?
AP Bob, that’s something I’m very happy to help you with, if you wanted to leave your number, sometimes, well there are certain conditions that the Dust Board can compensate people for, and another conditions that they can’t, but things change, diseases progress, the condition can progress over time, so it’s something that should be looked into regularly and I’m happy to help you out with that if you like.
DK Alright, if you can stay on the line Bob and we’ll get your details to Ann-Maree. Mal’s called as well, hi Mal.
C5 Oh g’day, how’re you going? Really enjoy your show there Deb, and I just had a question for Ann-Maree. Years ago I used to work as a motor mechanic in Sydney in a service station and we used to regularly blow out the break dust from the drums on cars and that, have you had any problems with asbestos exposure being caused by that?
AP We have. I’ve got a few cases like that at the moment, Mal, so if you think that you’ve been in contact with asbestos brake pads you should absolutely keep an eye on your chest and your breathing condition.
DK Ok there you go Mal, we’ll get your details too, because that might be worth following up. Thank you for that call. We’ve just follow up too, Ann-Maree with the call from Michael, and asbestos removal, Safe Work Australia says you do not need a licence to remove up to 10 square metres of non friable asbestos or asbestos containing materials, so he’s absolutely right, that loop hole exists according to Safe work Australia, which is something that you’ve just been educated about on the show as well as myself, so thank you to Michael for calling through with that. Patrick, what was your question?
C6 Yea hi. I’m just calling, I have a query around if you’re actually a contractor and you’ve been engaged by a building owner to carry out some works, and you run into asbestos, we’re supposed to report it to Safe Work, and then potentially an investigation can take place. I just want to know, whose actually responsible to know if there is asbestos in the building? Obviously if the owner doesn’t know, the contractor doesn’t know, and then you run into it, I just want to know like what’s the issue that can arise from the investigation? The investigation is trying to point figures at people, but how does anyone know?
DK Who is responsible? Yea, Patrick has got a good point there Ann-Maree, do you know the answer:
AP It’s a very good question Patrick, and this is exactly the issue with these home renovations and having contractors in, because there’s not enough that’s being done by councils or by government, or by anybody really, that’s allowing home owners or building owners to have a register of where asbestos is present, and this is the problem. Until you run into it you don’t often know.
DK Yea it’s a big concern. Great calls today. I think we might give Michael our $100 Westfield voucher with that loop hole that he’s raised our attention to, so we’ll send that out to Michael in Leichhart, and if you’ve got a question, turnerfreeman.com.au or you can call them on 13 43 63. Ann-Maree Pascoli thank you so much for joining us.
AP Thank you for having me Deb.
DK Ann-Maree Pascoli there looking at legal matters as we do this time every Tuesday here on afternoons with Deborah Knight.