Ballarat NBN asbestos scandal: Davcom guilty

A bin containing asbestos bags behind Davcom's Hertford Street depot. Picture taken on June 2, 2013 - the day before Worksafe inspectors arrived. PICTURE: JEREMY BANNISTER

A bin containing asbestos bags behind Davcom's Hertford Street depot. Picture taken on June 2, 2013 - the day before Worksafe inspectors arrived. PICTURE: JEREMY BANNISTER

A COMPANY at the centre of last year's National Broadband Network roll-out asbestos scandal in Ballarat has been found guilty of two charges and ordered to pay more than $20,000.

The court proceedings against Davcom come after the scandal in which The Courier last year revealed the sub-contractor, hired to clear Telstra duct pits in readiness for the NBN, had been using unsafe practices to dispose of deadly asbestos material.

WorkSafe prosecutor Alana Ziebell told Ballarat Magistrates Court on Thursday that Davcom management, including father and son Terry and Scott Davison, had failed to comply with Worksafe orders and had appeared in court once over five occasions.

Ms Ziebell said WorkSafe inspectors attended a work depot located in Hertford Street, Sebastopol, on June 3 last year - the same day The Courier published explosive claims by Davcom workers of unsafe work practices.

She said the inspectors observed a large skip containing several bags of asbestos which had been punctured.

The court heard the work depot had been leased to Davcom in December 2012 and that a company called Visionstream Australia had contracted Davcom to clear out Telstra pits.

Ms Ziebell said Davcom hired people to work on the project in February last year, with the work involving digging up asbestos boxes with crowbars and shovels.

She said this usually resulted in the boxes breaking, with pieces containing asbestos then placed in labelled bags and taken back to the depot where it ended up in skips.

One of The Courier's front pages during the scandal in June, 2013.

One of The Courier's front pages during the scandal in June, 2013.

The court heard police attended the depot on May 20 last year, responding to a report that about 10 bags containing asbestos had been cut open.

Terry Davison, the sole director of Davcom, told police the bags had been cut open sometime between Easter and May 20, 2013.

The court heard WorkSafe had trouble contacting Davison, who later told inspectors it was his son Scott who was handling the "asbestos issue".

Both men were not in court for proceedings and no other representative for Davcom attended.

Following Davcom failing to respond to Workplace requests to produce documents for the investigation, they were charged.

The charges included failing to comply with a requirement to give WorkSafe information and failing to comply with a requirement to produce documents in their control.

Magistrate Patrick Southey on Thursday found the charges proven and fined Davcom $20,000.

Davcom was also ordered to pay more than $5500 in legal costs.

"It's a dangerous substance when not properly handled and the company have failed to co-operate," Mr Southey said.

"They had ample opportunity to respond."

The NBN roll-out faced scrutiny around the country last year, with the federal government holding a crisis meeting in Ballarat last June. 

That meeting, between stakeholders including Telstra, WorkSafe, the Environment Protection Authority and unions, was held to address the issue of contractors and sub-contractors unsafely removing asbestos while clearing Telstra pits as part of the NBN roll-out.

patrick.byrne@fairfaxmedia.com.au



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