One of the things often forgotten about, or overlooked completely, when talking about doing renovations, or having a tradesperson do work on your home, is one of the extremely important things – INSURANCE – and how the lack of the right insurance could see you destitute!
How often do you look at a home renovation show, and hear talk about either asbestos or insurance in relation to asbestos? Sadly, the answer is hardly ever, you may occasionally hear asbestos mentioned, but insurance in relation to asbestos is unlikely to be talked about.
Why is it so important? When you are talking about working with, or handling asbestos, it is critically important you or the tradespersons or professions you are using are fully insured. If something goes wrong that causes contamination to occur, you could be liable for 100s of thousands of dollars in clean up costs and/or compensation. Think about if you expose people to asbestos dust, is it unreasonable for them to expect to be compensated? We rightly expect James Hardie to pay – why shouldn’t you? If you, or those you contract to do a job, are not fully insured, it could be enough for you to lose the family home or be in debt for the rest of your life.
Many (if not most, or all) standard ‘home and contents’ and ‘public liability insurance policies exclude anything to do with working with, or handling asbestos, and therefore will not cover you if you DIY asbestos.
As with home insurance, many (again, if not most or all) motor vehicle policies exclude anything to do with asbestos, in other words if you are carting asbestos to a licensed disposal facility on the back of your ute or trailer, and lose your load, your policy may not pay for the clean up costs which could run into many tens of thousands of dollars. If you have an accident, not only may you not be covered for cleanup costs, in some cases you may not be insured to have your car repaired or replaced; or to pay for any damage you may have caused.
Trades people are no better off, generally all business insurance policies will, as standard practice, exclude anything to do with asbestos.
As a general rule, only individuals and companies qualified to work with, or handle asbestos can readily obtain insurance to cover working with or handling asbestos – this makes sense!
Whether you are a homeowner, a business owner, a commercial or investment property owner or a self-employed trades person, you need to check your insurance policies, as normal practice is to exclude working with asbestos as a matter of course.
Lets have a look at two case studies to hi-light what this is all about.
In a seaside suburb of Melbourne Victoria, Australia, a ‘good mate’ decides to help out his elderly neighbour by (illegally) pressure washing his neighbours asbestos cement corrugated garage roof. In doing so he contaminates not only his neighbours property, but also every immediate surrounding property, with asbestos fibres. The EPA is alerted and rules every property has to be decontaminated which involves all properties being evacuated, and all vegetation having to be removed and replaced. This operation takes a number of weeks to carry out, and cost 100s of thousands of dollars. Insurance does not cover either person in question and it goes without saying, both have left themselves open to prosecution and possible civil litigation.
On the NSW, Australia, central coast, a bathroom renovator spends days stripping out a bathroom en-suite. To do the job he had to carry the debris through a walk in robe, the master bedroom and up the main passage, past other bedrooms and through a living area – all carpeted areas. It is only at the end of the strip-out he realises he has been removing asbestos cement sheet and other materials that possibly contained asbestos. The owner alerts SafeWork NSW and the EPA, not only has the tradesman left himself open to being prosecuted, he will have to pay to decontaminate the entire house, which involves removing and replacing all carpets, furniture and fittings such as drapes etc. The tradesman’s insurance does not cover him, as he is not qualified, or licensed to work with asbestos. Sadly, this person could now be forced to sell his family home to cover his debt. Of course, the homeowner could also sue for damages over and above decontamination costs.
These case studies may seem far-fetched, but they are based on actual occurrences. Can you afford to take the risk? Don’t DIY asbestos – use a licensed asbestos operative instead!
Note: The Bernie Banton Foundation is not accredited to provide advice. The information provided is for assistance only.