27 Nov 2013

Canterbury DHB facing asbestos charge

9:35 pm on 27 November 2013

The Canterbury District Health Board has been revealed as one of two employers facing charges of exposing workers at Christchurch Hospital to asbestos.

The DHB and exterior building care company Goleman Limited have pleaded not guilty.

In May this year, two maintenance workers employed by Goleman Ltd told the company they feared that patients and staff at the hospital could have been exposed to asbestos.

The workers say nothing was done until they told the contractor, Fletchers. The site was shut down two weeks later.

Two charges have been laid under the Health and Safety Act by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

Goleman Ltd has not replied to Radio New Zealand's calls, and the DHB has refused to comment because the matter is before the court. No more details are known, and the organisations are expected to appear in court in 2014.

Ron Angel, a spokesperson for the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, which represents the workers, says he is glad that the ministry is taking the matter seriously by laying charges.

"It's a very positive from our point of view that they're willing to follow it up and take some action on it - it certainly sends a clear message.

"But I think the problem is that MBIE is just not resourced enough to get out there. There are hundreds of building sites in Christchurch."