Asbestos can turn a smooth running operation into a nightmare especially when the harmful fibres are released into the air due to disturbance during renovation work.
Redevelopment work at a building site in Hobart at the Parliament Square was forced to come to a halt when union members discovered that they were being exposed to harmful asbestos.
According to reports, around 2 dozen members of the union downed their tools at the Parliament Square building site on Salamanca Place because they were exposed to hazardous asbestos fibres.
According to media reports the head of the union, Kevin Harkins said that at least 3 workers on the site were exposed to asbestos at the renovation site for over a month. He blamed the developer and builder involved for failing to address the site’s health and safety issue. Citta and Macquarie were responsible for the site but failed to act on the obvious asbestos threat.
Harkins was quoted by an article on SafetyCulture.com.au as saying:
In a statement Harkins said, “What we’re trying to do is just to make the company realise how important the workers think this is…because while the builder might finish this project and go on to the next one this is an event that can affect these workers’ lives for years and years to come.”
Unfortunately despite it being banned from further use in the future, older buildings often are contaminated with asbestos containing materials which are harmless until the fibres are released into the air. For example when the material becomes worn from wear and time or when it becomes disturbed and released into the air it starts to present a risk to the health of workers because when the fibres are released they can be inhaled by humans and that’s when they present a fatal risk to their health.
WorkSafe Tasmania confirmed that they had received a complaint that there were poor asbestos removal practices taking place at the site last February and a formal investigation is now underway. The article went on to explain:
A formal investigation has already commenced while Citta has yet to release a statement about the complaints lodged against them.
The $100 million development project started last August with the demolition of the old buildings, and during that time, the Government stated that the harmful asbestos had been removed.
The redevelopment work includes the construction of public open space, an amphitheatre and office building, and is expected to generate more than 400 jobs for the entire duration of the project.
Sites where renovation work is being undertaken are the biggest risk to workers in terms of asbestos contamination. This is because in the past many building materials were made with asbestos to make them more durable. Even though the use of the substance in building materials has been banned for decades, during renovation certain asbestos containing materials can become disturbed, releasing harmful asbestos fibres.
It is important that builders are aware of the risks to workers, including any asbestos risks to avoid episodes like this, which unnecessarily threaten the health and safety of workers on site and become even more costly as they result in a delay in work and possibly fines.