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Demolition firm stripped of asbestos licence

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EXCLUSIVE | The local contractor accused of exposing workers and school children to asbestos during its demolition of Shed 26 has been stripped of its asbestos removal licence, InDaily can reveal.

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Old Red Brick Co

Earlier this year, SafeWork SA temporarily shut down Old Red Brick Co’s demolition of the historic Port Adelaide sawtooth shed after asbestos roof sheeting was found onsite, and after the construction union warned workers, protesters and children at a nearby school might have been exposed to the dangerous material during the early stages of demolition.

InDaily yesterday asked the safety watchdog why Old Red Brick Co was no-longer listed on its public register of Class A asbestos removal licence holders.

non-compliance with asbestos regulations will not be tolerated.

In response, a spokesperson said SafeWork SA could not identify individual companies for legal reasons – but that it had “suspended the Class A asbestos removal licence held by a South Australian demolition business for a period of three months due to failure to ensure that the work and other activities were carried out safely and competently”.

“SafeWork SA determined that the license holder failed to identify and remove the asbestos prior to starting demolition, as authorised by the licence,” the spokesperson told InDaily in a statement.

The agency’s executive director, Martyn Campbell, said the licence suspension “should send a clear message to all licence holders that non-compliance with asbestos regulations will not be tolerated”.

“SafeWork SA reminds all duty holders involved in the demolition or refurbishment of a structure or plant that was installed or fixed before 31 December 2003 that they must comply with asbestos regulations,” he said.

“We also remind businesses that before demolition or refurbishment work is carried out at the workplace, the relevant asbestos register should be reviewed and, if necessary, revised.”

An annotated image from the CFMEU report on Old Red Brick Co’s demolition of Shed 26. Supplied.

The construction union (CFMEU) had produced photographs of suspected asbestos at the Shed 26 site, littered on various surfaces inside the building and apparently moved around, and video showing workers making plumes of dust potentially containing asbestos fibres airborne, by sweeping the floor.


The CFMEU warned that the demolition could have exposed not only those workers but also its own officials, protestors demonstrating against the building’s removal and children at a nearby primary school to asbestos.

Inhaling the material can cause cancer.

The union produced an audit of the site accusing Old Red Brick Co of dozens of health and safety law breaches at the site, including unprotected workers disturbing broken suspected asbestos, no first aid equipment or emergency plans, unprotected gaps in the floor and railings that could allow falls from a height.

An annotated image from the CFMEU report. Supplied.

An annotated image from the CFMEU report. Supplied.

Suspected asbestos at the site of Shed 26. Photo: CFMEU

SafeWork SA tests of material onsite initially tested negative to asbestos but later tests found Deep 6 asbestos roof sheeting on the site, “which was the source of previously discovered asbestos debris”.

The licence suspension is the latest in a string of regulatory actions SafeWork SA has taken against Old Red Brick Co during the past six months.

In April, SafeWork SA issued a temporary prohibition notice on the company’s demolition of a Waymouth Street building – because part of a floor slab hit scaffolding, which fell against a neighbouring construction site.

A CFMEU audit report concerning that demolition claimed “we found suspected asbestos onsite and the workers just picked it up and put it the back of a ute with no personal protective equipment (PPE) or appropriate asbestos removal PPE”, and that there was no asbestos or emergency management plan for the site.

SafeWork SA issued a prohibition notice on Old Red Brick Co’s demolition of a Waymouth Street building. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

A CFMEU-annotated photograph of what the union says was loose asbestos found at Old Red Brick Co’s Waymouth Street building demolition.

Old Red Brick Co copped another prohibition notice this month, after members of the public complained that its demolition of a warehouse in Port Adelaide posed a safety risk.

SafeWork SA ordered Old Red Brick Co to suspend the demolition, and the Port Adelaide Enfield Council agreed to close off nearby residential streets to protect the public.

CFMEU-supplied photographs of that site show a car parked next to the wall of the warehouse, which appeared to be bowing precariously, before the street was closed off.

InDaily contacted Old Red Brick Co for comment on the licence suspension, but a representative said there was no one at the company who could respond to a media enquiry.

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