Asbestos hazard being 'managed'

The Fletcher Building logo. Photo by ODT.
The Fletcher Building logo. Photo by ODT.
Christchurch rebuild lead contractor Fletcher Building maintains repairs on homes with asbestos have been ''managed responsibly and effectively'', in the face of an ongoing investigation by WorkSafe New Zealand.

WorkSafe, the Government workplace health and safety regulator, has applied to the Christchurch District Court for a time extension for its current investigation.

In response to the investigation, Fletcher group general manager Philip King said yesterday the risk of asbestos exposure had been ''identified early'' in the Christchurch Home Repair Programme (CHRP), which Fletcher manages using independent building contractors.

''Fletcher Building states that the asbestos hazard in houses repaired under the CHRP has been managed responsibly and effectively,'' the statement said.

Mr King noted no charges had been laid by WorkSafe.

The Council of Trade Unions said it was ''deeply concerned about the exposure to deadly asbestos'' experienced by rebuild workers, claiming a possibility Fletcher could face charges in court for not keeping workers safe.

CTU policy director Bill Rosenberg said in a statement urgency should be given to upgrading New Zealand regulations covering asbestos products, rather than waiting until April next year, given asbestos products were ''strictly banned at the border'' of Australia and the UK already.

''New Zealand is out of step with many other countries around the world as we fail to have a plan in place to eliminate asbestos. Banning all importation of asbestos products is a critical step,'' Mr Rosenberg said.

Fletcher noted ''tens of thousands'' of homes across the country still contained asbestos, which was widely used from 1940 to 1990.

Since starting the rebuild, it had worked with WorkSafe and when asbestos had been found contractors were told to do repairs in accordance with asbestos regulations.

Fletcher shares last traded at $9.17, down 3c.

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