Unidentified material was loosened from an atrium roof panel on the Level 8 link bridge when the panel was penetrated during planned works.
A sample of the loosened material was tested for potential asbestos when John Holland became concerned as to the possible presence of fibres that could be asbestos. Within an hour of testing the results confirmed the presence of chrysotile asbestos (white asbestos). A decision was made immediately to stand down all workers on site (approx. 200) as a precaution and access to the area was restricted.
Airborne and sample dust tape tests were analysed by two separate independent accredited testing laboratories on Tuesday evening. These tests included airborne monitoring and tape tests in the area where the asbestos was found.
All initial airborne tests confirmed that asbestos was not present in the air. All tape tests outside the Level 8 affected area confirmed asbestos was not present in the tested dusts. As a result, the site was declared safe for workers to return to work on Wednesday morning (13 July).
Questions & Answers
Q. How was the site determined to be safe?
A. Workers were allowed back on site on Wednesday morning once laboratory tests had confirmed there was no evidence of asbestos in work areas outside of the isolated area.
Q. What has been done for workers who were working in the area where chrysotile asbestos was found?
A. Workers who may have been directly or indirectly exposed to asbestos associated with the atrium roof panels are being offered the following support and testing:
Group and one-on-one information sessions with industrial hygienist, Jackie Campbell (IAQS).
Vehicle testing (note: no asbestos has been identified in any vehicle tested to date).
Tools used in the area have been cleaned. Air circulation tools, such as grinders, have been bagged for removal from site.
A baseline health test if requested.
Workers’ details have also been added to the PCH Asbestos Exposure Register, which has been set-up for people who were working in the area, or who have concerns they may have been in contact with materials containing asbestos.
Q. What is the PCH Asbestos Register and how do I add my name to it?
A. The PCH Asbestos Exposure Register managed by John Holland contains details of people we know may have been exposed to asbestos as a direct result of the works on the atrium roof panels. The register is being used to ensure support and assistance is provided to those who need it.
If you are concerned that you were exposed to asbestos and have not added your name to the Asbestos Exposure Register, please let your supervisor or subcontractor representative know, or provide your details at the PCH site safety office in office 1 (opposite first aid hut).
Q. Do I have to put my name on the PCH Asbestos Register?
A. Adding your name to the register is purely voluntary.
Q. What is the register that the unions are collating? Do I need to put my name on register?
A. John Holland is aware of the union register but is not aware of the purpose of the register or how the information will be used.
Q. Are there any health risks associated with working on site?
A. The area where asbestos was disturbed has been isolated and contained. Airborne tests and tape test dust sampling conducted in other areas of the hospital show no evidence of asbestos in work areas. Testing will continue as a precautionary measure until a full clearance certificate for the isolated area has been provided by an independent third party assessor.
Q. Media reports say there is asbestos in the ventilation system. Is this true?
A. Airborne samples and tape dust tests were conducted in the plant rooms, air handling units, filters and coils through which air from the affected area could pass. All test results show no evidence of asbestos in the ventilation system.
Q. I have seen reports in the media that the concentration of asbestos in the atrium roof panels is higher than initially thought. Is this true?
A. It is generally very difficult to determine the concentration level of asbestos in construction material. The reports that the concentration of asbestos is seven per cent have not been able to be confirmed by our industrial hygienist. John Holland’s Asbestos Management Plan operates on the premise that no level or type of asbestos contamination is acceptable and all precautions have been taken on this basis.
Q. What if I’m concerned my work clothes or tools have been contaminated?
A. Procedures for the replacement of clothes or tools are in place. Please discuss any concerns with your supervisor, who will discuss the need for replacement gear with the PCH Safety Manager.
Tools that were used in the area have been cleaned, and air circulation tools, such as grinders and welders, have been bagged for removal from site.
Q. How will I be updated on further developments?
A. Information sessions conducted by an industrial hygienist and John Holland representatives will continue to be held for everyone on site for as long as required.
Q. Will this issue impact the construction completion date of the hospital?
A. It is too early to say. A remediation program is being finalised.
Q. How could panels containing asbestos end up on site?
A. The panels were independently tested at the point of manufacture and verified as being clear of asbestos. An investigation is underway to review the manufacturing/testing process.
Q. What about other panels in the hospital, e.g. external facades and atrium panels that Yuanda supplied?
A. John Holland and has reviewed all façade specifications to check for any materials that may contain fibre cement sheets. From this review, the extent of fibre cement sheets, which is where chrysotile was discovered, is limited to the roof atrium panels.
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