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Issue #1559      8 August 2012

Asbestos alert

The CFMEU has become aware that the Bechtel Construction Pty Ltd site on Curtis Island near Gladstone, Queensland, has imported buildings that have been made from converted shipping containers. They have been assembled in Indonesia and supplied by the international company METITO Pty Ltd, to house the Motor Control Centres for the Sewage Treatment Plant.

“CFMEU members on the Bechtel job on Curtis Island have voted unanimously to demand the company remove the sheds from the Island and send them back to Indonesia. Work will not be carried out in that area of the site until the sheds are removed,” said Assistant Divisional Secretary and National OHS Officer, Lindsay Fraser.

The internal linings of the sheds consist of asbestos cement sheeting/tiles on the walls, floors and ceilings. This has been confirmed by testing.

“As we are all aware the importation of asbestos products has been banned through the Customs Act in Australia since 31 December 2003,” said CFMEU QLD/NT Safety Officer Andrew Ramsay.

“The asbestos in these sheds came to light after a fire in one of the switch boards caused the sheeting to be broken and exposed the fibres to the workers involved.

“The union is concerned that many electricians may also have been exposed during fit-out of these sheds before the alarm was raised.”

CFMEU Construction National Office is alerting members around Australia, particularly on remote job-sites, of the possibility of illegal dumping of this type of converted shipping containers for use as offices or sheds on those sites.

“The CFMEU is alerting OHS Officers and members in all branches to check their sites for imported products of this kind and alert their employers to the potential hazards.

“The incident also raises questions about the validity of Material Safety Data Sheets on building products coming from other countries, which the CFMEU will be investigating further,” said Mr Fraser.  

Next article – “What the frack” – Unconventional gas and its place in WA’s energy future

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