Workers' safety questioned after 'too quick' asbestos clean-up
Western Australia’s peak medical body has flagged concerns in a letter to the state’s Premier with the ongoing safety of workers after asbestos was found at the new Perth Children’s Hospital.
- Asbestos discovered in cut roof panels in new Perth Children’s Hospital
- AMA says clean up job too quick, fears not thorough enough
- Section of hospital sealed but work ongoing, slated to open in October after earlier project delays
Health Minister John Day has confirmed white asbestos was found in a roof panel on the eighth floor of the building.
Workers were first exposed to the asbestos on Monday, but initial testing — which later came back positive — was not done until Tuesday.
That section of the eighth floor has been sealed off but construction is continuing in the rest of the building.
Australian Medical Association state president Andrew Miller said he was writing to Premier Colin Barnett and Mr Day to say he was not reassured a thorough job had been done to clean the site and contain the asbestos dust.
“It’s just far too quick as far as we’re concerned, and we would like Comcare, the regulator, to explain exactly how it is that the site can be declared safe so quickly, including things like all the air conditioning ducts, and so on, which are in the vicinity of where this occurred,” Dr Miller said.
He described the discovery of asbestos in a children’s hospital as “extraordinary” and urged a thorough record to be kept of all workers and anyone else who had been in the hospital since Monday.
“I think we can reassure people that it’s unlikely they’ll have a problem,” Dr Miller said.
“But that they need to be carefully followed, and it may be that some of them choose to have some sort of X-ray now to make sure there is nothing wrong with their lungs at the moment, so that in future if there is something wrong with them they can prove this is what’s caused it.”
The CFMEU said there were up to 25 employees working directly on the asbestos-affected area at the hospital on Monday when one of them cut into a sealed roof panel and made the discovery.
There are 150 of the roof panels in question on the eighth floor of the building, which John Holland had independently tested in 2013 and found to be asbestos free.
Future of government contracts for firm in doubt
The Health Minister and the Premier have spoken strongly about the presence of the potentially deadly material at the hospital site, which was due to be opened in October.
Premier Barnett described the asbestos scandal as “totally unacceptable”, but said he did not believe it would delay the hospital’s opening.
But he said the discovery would affect the main contractor John Holland’s ability to win future government contracts.
The roof panels were supplied by a Chinese manufacturing firm, Yuanda.
This is the second asbestos discovery linked to a construction site in Australia supplied by Yuanda, which has at least five major high-rise projects around Australia, as well as a medical research facility in South Australia.
Asbestos-tainted gaskets found at a government building in Queensland prompted the urgent inspection of the new medical facility at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, but it was found the same gaskets, supplied by Yuanda, had not been used.
Yuanda has been contacted for comment.