Blue Mountains Council given more notices from SafeWork on asbestos

Asbestos shutdown: Katooma Tip and the Wentworth Falls Pre-School are shut because of asbestos concerns.
Asbestos shutdown: Katooma Tip and the Wentworth Falls Pre-School are shut because of asbestos concerns.

The Wentworth Falls Pre-School remains shut, as does the Katoomba Tip, as SafeWork NSW has commenced “a full investigation” into asbestos management practices at Blue Mountains Council.

It has also increased the number of notices being issued to the council – with 17 improvement notices and four prohibition notices in relation to asbestos management at council sites since the completion of council’s asbestos management plan in recent months.

“This includes a prohibition notice to a pre-school at Wentworth Falls directing them to identify and assess the condition of all asbestos-containing materials, and to put in place appropriate controls to safely manage those materials,” a SafeWork NSW spokesman said.

“SafeWork NSW has also directed council to undertake more comprehensive asbestos testing at the pre-school [and that it] “remain closed until SafeWork NSW determines that the prohibition notice has been complied with”.

Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said the SafeWork inspectors had issued notices in relation to asbestos discovered in the pre-school, large waste piles at the council depots at Lawson and Katoomba,       buildings at Springwood council depot, leaf litter at the rear of the yard at a council-owned building operating as a pre-school in Katoomba, Lawson Library ceiling,         the ceilings and walls at Warrimoo Citizens’ Hall; and       the fireplace at Heatherbrae Cottage at Lawson. 

Mr Kean said SafeWork was inspecting around 20 locations nominated as potential asbestos hot spots. 

“SafeWork will get to the bottom of the way in which council has handled this very important issue – we won’t cop workers or the community being exposed to danger,” Mr Kean said.

Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill welcomed the investigation.

“There is nothing more important than ensuring the safety of our workforce and our community,” he said.

“There is no doubt that council, like all councils in NSW, has a significant challenge in managing asbestos in our city, but we are taking every opportunity to improve the standard of our procedures and practices. If mistakes have been made we want to learn from them. If anything has not been managed properly we want it fixed.

“We have been working tirelessly and proactively in response to recent allegations made in the media against the council, and against individual council officers, in relation to the management of asbestos in council owned properties,” he said.

“The council has maintained open communication with all relevant agencies on this matter and will continue to do so. We want to participate openly and cooperatively in all investigations and partner with the State Government to ensure we get the job done properly.”

A council spokeswoman said the Wentworth Falls Pre-school was “unlikely to reopen before the end of the preschool term on Friday, December 15”.

“Council staff continue to liaise with the preschool director and the preschool community. Arrangements are in place for the preschool end of year Christmas concert to be held in an alternative venue,” she said.

Katoomba tip remained closed as on December 12 pending SafeWork NSW review and approval of the remediation plan and clearance certificate prepared by independent asbestos assessor.