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Date PostedAugust 21, 2012

White Card Update: Imported Material Tainted with Asbestos

The Construction Union is concerned about the incident involving asbestos being found in structures imported from Indonesia. The union has warned its members about the incident and issued an alert to educate workers.

Strangely the importation of asbestos products was banned in Australia almost a decade ago, so how this material could have slipped through the cracks is still unknown. The union is particularly concerned about the safety of electricians who may be exposed.

The asbestos was only discovered after a fire in one of the switch boards cause the asbestos sheeting to break, revealing the dangerous asbestos fibres within. 

WorkplaceOHS.com reported on the case:

The CFMEU has advised its members that asbestos was found in pre-assembled structures imported from Indonesia for installation at local building sites.

The alert was issued after the union learnt that the Bechtel Construction Pty Ltd site on Curtis Island near Gladstone, Queensland, had imported sheds built from converted shipping containers.

They were assembled in Indonesia and supplied by the international company METITO Pty Ltd to house the Motor Control Centres for the Sewage Treatment Plant.

CFMEU QLD/NT safety officer Andrew Ramsay said tests had confirmed the internal linings of the sheds consisted of Asbestos Cement Sheeting/Tiles on the walls, floors and ceilings.

‘As we are all aware the importation of asbestos products has been banned through the Customs Act in Australia since 31 December 2003,’ he said.

‘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.’

Source: http://www.workplaceohs.com.au/hazards/hazardous-substancesdangerous-goods/asbestos-news-tainted-supplies-from-overseas-plus-more

The report goes on to report on the latest Mesothelioma figures in Oz which are among the highest in the world. It is expected that up to 18,000 more Australians will die from mesothelioma by 2020. Mesothelioma is the cancer of the pleura. This disease grows and spreads quickly before the symptoms appear which makes early diagnosis and treatments harder.  The average survival time after diagnosis is only 6-18 months. A very small exposure to asbestos can be enough to trigger the cancer. The danger of this disease is that there may be a lag time of 20 to 40 years after asbestos exposure before mesothelioma results.

The report goes on to cite the following statistics:

Mesothelioma report reveals diagnosis and death rates

Meanwhile, Safe Work Australia has published a statistical report containing data on the number of mesothelioma sufferers diagnosed between 1982 and 2008, as well as the number of deaths due to mesothelioma between 1997 and 2007.

The key findings are summarised below:

New cases diagnosed

 •In 2008 there were 661 new cases of mesothelioma diagnosed in Australia.

The number of new cases decreased from a previous peak of 652 new cases in 2003 to 591 new cases in 2006: initially suggesting a decreasing trend. However, the number of diagnoses reported in 2007 reached a new peak of 668 cases. This increase between 2006 and 2007 was mainly due to the increase in diagnoses for men (from 487 to 561 new cases respectively).

 •In 2008, the age-standardised incidence rate of new cases of mesothelioma was 2.9 per 100 000 population.

This rate has increased over time, from 1.2 cases in 1982 to a peak of 3.2 in 2003. In 2008, the highest age-specific incidence rate of new cases occurred among men aged 85 years and over: 48 cases per 100 000 population aged 85 years and over.

Deaths due to mesothelioma

•In 2007 there were 551 deaths attributed to mesothelioma.

Data on the number of deaths due to mesothelioma are available for the years 1997 to 2007. Reflecting the increase in incidence of new cases diagnosed, the overall number of deaths resulting from mesothelioma generally increased over the period between 1997 and 2007: reaching a maximum of 551 deaths in 2007.

 •In 2007, the age-standardised rate of death due to mesothelioma was 2.4 deaths per 100 000 population.

The overall age-standardised rate has remained relatively stable over the 10 years for which data are available. Over the period the standardised rate has ranged between a minimum of 2.1 deaths per 100 000 population in 1999 and a maximum of 2.7 in 2001.’

Source: http://www.workplaceohs.com.au/hazards/hazardous-substancesdangerous-goods/asbestos-news-tainted-supplies-from-overseas-plus-more

 Posted by Steven Asnicar

 

Steven Asnicar is regarded as a leader across many fields of industry. In particular, his specialisation across the health, infrastructure, construction, resource and utility sectors has seen him successfully change the dynamics of these industries through the introduction of new strategic, marketing, training and technical frameworks. Steven works closely with industry peak bodies such as Safework Australia, Australian Logistics Council, National Advisory for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment (NATESE) and the Council of Australian Governments in the development of new delivery standards and industry specific programs.

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