New licensing laws could spark rise in asbestos-related claims

Date: Jan 29, 2015

Homeowners and tradespeople could be exposed to deadly asbestos due to the “watering down” of licensing requirements for painters, a Labor politician has argued.

Tania Mihailuk, NSW opposition spokeswoman for fair trading, said the changes may allow unqualified and unskilled professionals to handle asbestos and lead when carrying out jobs.

Under the new regulations, tradespeople are not required to possess a licence if they are doing general building work that is worth less than $5,000.

According to Ms Mihailuk, this creates a serious health and safety issue, with “cowboys” entering the industry who have no experience of dealing with deadly materials.

“Maitland has a lot of older buildings with asbestos and lead and unlicensed painters may not know what these substances look like, or know what to do about them – and they may not even care,” she told the Maitland Mercury.

“We believe if a house has not been prepared properly, there could be grave risks to the health and safety [of] people in that house – and indeed to the painters themselves.”

Exposure to asbestos can result in various lung diseases, including mesothelioma. Figures from the Australian Mesothelioma Registry showed there were 575 people newly diagnosed with the illness in 2013, with 652 cases the previous year.

Anyone who develops an asbestos-related disease should be eligible for compensation, which is why it is important to contact an experienced lawyer in NSW to initiate the claims process as quickly as possible.

Understanding the risks

Ms Mihailuk spoke to the Maitland Mercury alongside local painter Todd Lantry, who is a 35-year veteran of the industry.

He explained that qualified painters would recognise hazardous materials and know how to deal with them, but an unlicensed tradie could have problems.

The new legislation was introduced in an effort to reduce red tape, while ensuring people remain protected under Australian Consumer Law.

“This change recognises the cost structure for building work and brings NSW into line with Victoria, WA and Tasmania, all of which already have a threshold of $5,000 or more,” said NSW Fair Trading Minister Matthew Mason-Cox.

The previous threshold of $1,000 had been in place since 2004, with Mr Mason-Cox claiming it did not take into account the rising cost of building materials and services.

However, Ms Mihailuk said the state government had not discussed the new rules with the Master Painters Association before introducing them.

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