Workers potentially exposed to Chinese asbestos at Nyrstar, Port Pirie

Wednesday 24th August 2016 0:00

The Australian Workers’ Union is calling for a full inquiry into how a large piece of equipment containing asbestos was supplied to Nyrstar’s Port Pirie site for use in the transformation works underway.

The AWU is demanding a review of whether workers were exposed to asbestos fibres from 10-metre high heat exchanger tubes, which were delivered to Port Pirie from China.

SafeWork SA has shut down associated work on the site while it clears the contamination risk.

AWU National Secretary Scott McDine said a full inquiry into the incident was necessary.

“We need to find out how on earth a contractor thought it was appropriate to deliver an asbestos-laden piece of equipment to an Australian site,” Mr McDine said.

“Were they told about Australian standards? If so, did they wilfully disregard them? Workers have a right to know.”

Mr McDine also called for the Turnbull Government to get serious about border protection.

“The Turnbull Government is fond of throwing around the words ‘border protection,’ but when it comes to keeping Australians safe from the risk of deadly asbestos exposure they are effectively asleep at the wheel,” Mr McDine said.

“How can a ten-metre high cylinder containing significant amounts of asbestos be allowed through our borders? And we know this is hardly an isolated incident. Border security needs proper resourcing to keep Australian safe from asbestos-related disease.”

AWU South Australian Branch Secretary Peter Lamps said he would be seeking immediate high-level meetings to ensure workers were safe.

“Given the nature of the work conducted at Nystar, no one gets too far inside the site without wearing full protective clothing and respiratory equipment,” Mr Lamps said.

“We are optimistic that this will have protected the workers from harmful exposure in this particular case, but we will be seeking complete assurances that this is what has happened. Nevertheless, even if workers have been protected this represents good luck and not good management. We need a proper inquiry to find out how 10-metres worth of asbestos-contaminated material was delivered to Port Pirie in the first place.”