The suspected safety breach at the old Mitsubishi site involving asbestos removal has sparked outrage among workers at the site, who fear for their health due to exposure to the harmful substance. Construction work has commenced at the site, beginning with the removal of old asbestos. Workers believe that safety procedures have been ignored by neglecting PPE requirements. Some workers attempted to highlight the seriousness of their concern by quitting work on the site.
A report by Adelaidenow.com.au had this to report on the issue:
WORKERS on the state’s biggest asbestos-removal site at the former Mitsubishi car plant say procedural breaches are risking safety.
Workers who contacted The Advertiser anonymously say they do not believe correct removal procedures had been adhered to in the first four months of the project, to clean up 93,000sq m of asbestos sheeting on the former factory site.
SafeWork SA officers, regularly on site, said its inspectors had issued statutory notices to address non-compliant work practices.
The breaches involve a failure to comply with the personal protective equipment requirements of workers in the asbestos-removal zone. But the workers, some of whom have quit, believe the issues and dangers at the site extend beyond people not being appropriately equipped with protective gear.
They have questioned how the clean-up project, conducted by DE-Construct for developers Baulderstone, handles the asbestos sheeting once it is removed from the factory structure.
One worker said the sheets were “dumped” into trucks lined with plastic, causing asbestos particles and dust to become airborne.
And workers are also concerned about thick dust in the factory that they fear contains asbestos.
A Baulderstone spokesman said the health and safety of everybody involved with its projects was the company’s first priority.
“We take our environmental obligations very seriously and the protection of all aspects of the environment is a key concern,” the spokesman said.
Asbestos removal is being carried out under the EPA guidelines together with approvals from SafeWork SA.
“The subcontractor engaged on the project is working in accordance with the asbestos-removal plan.
“The Baulderstone project team will continue to work with SafeWork SA to ensure all preventative measures are adhered to for the life of this project.”
SafeWork SA said the Tonsley Park redevelopment, an SA government project being managed by the Urban Renewal Authority, has been declared a major project.
“The redevelopment involves significant construction work including the removal of asbestos,” a SafeWork SA spokeswoman said.
“SafeWork SA has assigned specialist inspectors from the Mineral Fibres Unit and the Construction and High Risk Plant Team to this project.”
Contractors tasked with asbestos removal have a responsibility to themselves and to other workers to ensure they perform their duties in a manner that will not endanger anyone’s health and safety. They should ensure that asbestos-related work areas are separated from other work areas and that signs are used to warn workers of areas that are undergoing asbestos removal.These should be kept clear of unnecessary workers. Barricades can be used to close off these areas from foot traffic.
A competent person should carry out air monitoring and where there is uncertainty about level of exposure the asbestos waste should be contained and labelled according to regulation, not like the Mitsubishi site where asbestos was thrown onto a truck, releasing potentially dangerous particles into the air, to be inhaled by workers in the vicinity.
PPE is vital in the removal of asbestos and these PPE should be sealed, decontaminated, labelled and disposed of according to Australian safety standards. If that is not possible, PPE should be decontaminated and kept in a sealed, secure container until it is necessary to re-use for the same asbestos removal purpose.
While PPE is not effective on its own, it will need to be used in conjunction with other control measures. Selection of PPE will be determined by a risk assessment. It may occur that hazardous chemicals will need to be used in the removal of the asbestos and in this instance a further risk assessment will be necessary. In this case Safety data sheets (SDS) must be referred to for information on the appropriate PPE to use and the appropriate precautions to take when working with the hazardous chemical. When considering which PPE to use one of the factors that need to be considered will be ease of decontamination and the extent of protection they provide. Other basic safety precautions and a comprehensive risk assessment should also be adhered to as outlined in the CPCCOHS1001A – Work safely in the construction industry White Card course.
Workers at the Mitsubishi site acted wisely in alerting authorities and the public to what they perceived as unsafe practices on their work site. Safety should always be the main priority of workers and employers. It’s not worth endangering your life in the name of productivity. Let’s hope this case will serve as a warning to other contractors and employers that safety is their main responsibility and even more so where dangerous materials are involved.
Posted by Steven Asnicar.