Operations have been put on hold at a major construction site in Sydney following discoveries of what builders believe could be deposits of asbestos.
All 150 workers at the Barangaroo revitalisation projects downed their tools at 09:00 on April 10 and have undergone medical checks after the hazardous material was allegedly found on the King Street Wharf development.
The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CMFEU) claims that this has been the 14th discovery of the fibrous mineral on the site.
CMFEU state secretary Brian Parker spoke to reporters on April 11, stating that employees would not return to work until satisfied that the adequate measures were being taken to ensure their safety, as well as reducing the risk to members of the public nearby.
Mr Parker also explained that it was his understanding that a safety committee was not in place to handle the worker concerns.
Mr Parker asserted: “Not one bit of training has been provided to anyone on site about the dangers of dealing with asbestos, despite the fact that management knew it had been found.
“The union is of course deeply concerned about the dangers posed to workers, but the broader community has the right to be asking questions as well.
“On a high-wind day like today there is a real chance that dust from the site could blow all the way up to King Street Wharf.”
The actions of the developer were defended by the head of development at Lend Lease David Hutton, who said that the company had air quality sampling stations in place around the site and routinely conducted its own investigations into asbestos contamination.
Mr Hutton stated: “When asbestos has been found in a small number of excavation locations we closed and quarantined those areas and brought in accredited occupational hygienists to approve, oversee and validate the removal of any asbestos in accordance with WorkCover regulations.
“Safety is Lend Lease’s highest priority and, in regards to any contamination at Barangaroo South, the company has procedures in place to ensure the safety of the workforce, surrounding community and environment.”
The concern of construction workers is understandable, as victims of asbestos can take many years to develop the lethal symptoms such as mesothelioma.
Proving the link between a particular point of exposure and the development of these conditions can be difficult without the assistance of a specialist compensation lawyer with years of experience in dust-borne diseases.