A recent court case in South Australia sends a strong message to employers: there's no excuse for failing to take action about asbestos-related risks to your employees.
85-year old Allan Geyer was diagnosed with mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos over a 31-year career at a South Australian power station. Now, the Electricity Trust of South Australia has been forced to pay Mr Geyer more than $320,000 in damages.
$20,000 of this settlement is "exemplary damages", meaning the court believed that ETSA knew of the risks its employees were facing from exposure to asbestos, but failed to inform them or to adequately protect them.
This is a drop in the ocean compared to the total costs organisations like ETSA might end up facing if other former employees bring legal action against them. With mesothelioma rates expected to keep rising for the next decade, that's a very real possibility.
What to do first: get an asbestos assessment
Employers have both a legal and a moral responsibility to make sure their employees are aware of and protected from asbestos risks. If your premises were built before 2004, the first step is to arrange an asbestos assessment from an experienced asbestos consultancy company like Airsafe. If we find asbestos on your premises, we'll help you develop an asbestos register and management plan.
Don't be an employer that the courts make an example of: do the right thing, and get your premises checked for asbestos.