Threat of asbestos contamination stopped work at major construction project

Threat of asbestos contamination stopped work at major construction project

If organisations need reminding what damage even the threat of asbestos contamination can do to their business, they don’t need to look further than an incident which happened recently in Australia.

A couple of weeks ago, hundreds of workers walked out on the $3.6bn Queen’s Wharf redevelopment in Brisbane because they were concerned that materials onsite could contain asbestos.

The construction workers stopped work as a precaution after fire-rated plasterboard suppliers, USG Boral, sent a letter to its customers warning of ‘very low levels of asbestos contamination’ found in the company’s Western Sydney plant.

Multiplex, the construction company managing the redevelopment site, was able to reassure workers that testing had found no traces of asbestos contamination at the Brisbane redevelopment and they returned to the site.

However, this incident clearly shows what can happen if workers fear they are running the risk of being exposed to asbestos contamination.

How did the asbestos incident in Brisbane come about?

News of the incident at Queen’s Wharf in Brisbane has been widely carried by the Australian press, including the likes of ABC News, The Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times and the Courier Mail.

In their coverage it has emerged that the fire-rated plasterboard suppliers, USG Boral, had found asbestos contamination in vermiculite which had been imported from China in products at its western Sydney plant. The company asked for the product to be quarantined as they awaited the results of further testing.

The company said only small amounts of vermiculite were used in its products and that it was likely the asbestos contamination had occurred when the vermiculite was mined – before it was delivered to their sites. It also said it had stopped using the Chinese-sourced vermiculite in the wake of the asbestos contamination.

This week, a subsequent article in the Courier Mail revealed that workers at USG Boral’s Brisbane plant, have been stood down for two weeks.

In Australia – like in the UK – asbestos been banned from being imported for decades but in a range of countries, including China, asbestos continues to be used.

The news has prompted a wider discussion in the Australian media about the dangers posed to Australian homeowners and builders if asbestos isn’t being stopped at their borders.

In an article by Australia’s commercial news site, news.com.au, workers’ unions have called on the Australian Border Force to ramp up its screening of building materials for asbestos contamination, claiming the problem was costing the construction industry money and putting lives at risk.

Despite the UK’s ban on asbestos there is also evidence that the dangerous substance is still making its way to our shores. Earlier this summer, in one of our blogs, we shared the details of a case where a UK firm had imported parts, which turned out to contain asbestos, from a company based in Shanghai.

Why are people afraid of asbestos contamination?

Although, the importation and use of asbestos has been banned here for decades it still kills around 5,000 workers every year – that’s more than the number of people killed on the roads.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that around 20 tradesmen die a week as a result of past exposure but the organisation is quick to point out that asbestos is not just a problem of the past.

Sadly, asbestos was used widely by the UK construction industry during the second half of the 20th century and as a result any building built or refurbished before 2000 may contain the hazardous substance.

If asbestos is disturbed or damaged it releases fibres into the air and when these are inhaled they can causes serious and life-threatening diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening.

What is Acorn doing to protect people from asbestos contamination?

At Acorn Analytical Services, we work with businesses to help them manage asbestos at their properties safely and we invest time and effort into educating the public about the dangers of asbestos contamination.

We share our extensive knowledge of the subject through our blogs and podcasts and run awareness campaigns highlighting the risks asbestos contamination poses to people’s health. Only this month we launched a hard-hitting campaign to protect teachers and children from asbestos in schools.

If your business is responsible for properties that contain asbestos, it is your legal duty to ensure that asbestos is properly managed and doesn’t put lives at risk. If you’re working on a construction project where asbestos may be disturbed it is your duty to ensure people aren’t put at risk.

To help organisations we offer a free 30-minute video call to help you find out your current asbestos compliance status.

We’ve also developed the UK’s only fully documented and systemised asbestos management process called the Acorn Asbestos Antidote. This takes organisations all the way from non-compliance with the associated risks of asbestos exposure, prosecutions and fines to full compliance with the law.

We also offer a wide range of other services to keep people safe, including asbestos surveys, air testing, sample testing, removal management and training. So, if you need our help or have questions about your asbestos compliance status contact us today.

Acorn is a professional asbestos consultancy helping organisations deal with asbestos compliance using asbestos surveysasbestos air testing, and asbestos removal management. Please call one of the team, or use the online form to obtain your free quotation. If you would like further information or advice on asbestos and asbestos training, contact the team on 0844 818 0895 or Contact Us

Neil Munro

I work in a dual role at Acorn Analytical Services focused primarily on growing and leading the business from our Northampton office base. My focus is on overseeing all sales, marketing and financial activities from Northampton. I assist clients with high-level asbestos management strategies and training. Together with Ian Stone I host our weekly podcast – Asbestos Knowledge Empire and I'm Co-author of Asbestos The Dark Arts and Fear and Loathing of Health and Safety.

Need Help? Request a Call Back

Request a call back from one of our expert Asbestos Consultants who will help you identify what you need

More Asbestos Articles

Asbestos isn't a headache with the Acorn Compliance Antidote

Asbestos isn’t a problem with the Acorn Compliance Antidote

AT Acorn Analytical Services we’re probably best known for the work we do supporting businesses with asbestos surveys and asbestos management. But did you also know that we offer a full package of health and safety services through our Acorn Compliance Antidote? The antidote is the perfect way to get all your health and safety … Read more

Asbestos consultancy celebrates the opening of new regional office

Asbestos company celebrates the opening of new regional office in Wolverhampton

EARLIER this month the team at Acorn Analytical Services was delighted to welcome the Deputy Mayor of Wolverhampton, Councillor Dr Michael Hardacre and the Deputy Mayoress, Lynn Plant to the opening of our new asbestos management office in Wolverhampton. It was a very proud day for regional manager, Lewis Scott and his team, and Acorn’s … Read more

Emma Gooding, one of our women in construction

Women in Construction: Highlighting the work of two incredible women at the heart of our team

HIGHLY-SKILLED, talented women in construction are right at the heart of Acorn Analytical Services’ success, taking on key roles within our business and leading the fight against the UK’s asbestos epidemic. In recent years, many more women in construction have chosen to take on roles within the asbestos industry and at Acorn we do everything … Read more

Asbestos Book

Asbestos: The Dark Arts – essential reading for anyone involved in health and safety this World Book Day

AS well as being part of one of the UK’s leading asbestos consultancies, Acorn Analytical Services’ directors Ian Stone and Neil Munro have also written best-selling books on asbestos and health and safety. The books, which include their five-star rated title Asbestos: The Dark Arts, have quickly become essential reading to anyone involved in facilities … Read more

Asbestos bitesize training sessions for you and your business

Asbestos: Free bitesize sessions from the experts at Acorn will help keep your team protected from this hidden killer

IT may have been banned from new buildings more than 20 years ago but asbestos still poses a huge threat to the health and wellbeing of our society. Thousands of buildings – including many schools – still contain asbestos which can go on to cause deadly cancer if it is damaged or disturbed releasing microscopic … Read more

Asbestos analyst Jake is a shining star

Asbestos analyst Jake is a shining example of how apprenticeships can be a huge success for everyone

IT’S National Apprenticeship Week and what better way to celebrate than by shining the spotlight on asbestos analyst, Jake Newell. Jake joined Acorn Analytical Services as an apprentice in 2021 and since then he has completed his training, shown outstanding commitment and dedication to his role and been recognised for his efforts by winning – … Read more

2022 - A big year in the fight against asbestos

2022: A big year for Acorn Analytical Services in the fight against a hidden killer

2022 was a big year for the team of experts at multi award-winning asbestos management consultancy, Acorn Analytical Services. It was a year which saw the business grow and develop, we took on new staff and we helped support businesses, charities and organisations right across the UK by helping to manage their asbestos and raise … Read more

Asbestos awareness: Education is key

Asbestos awareness: ‘Educating the public is key’

WHEN it comes to raising awareness of the dangers of asbestos, education and training are absolutely key. With so much advice out there, it can be difficult to know where to turn for information you can trust and training which is tailored to suit your individual needs. To mark national Day of Education, the team … Read more

Asbestos is a big problem on the high street

Asbestos on the high street continues to dominate the headlines

The headlines have once again been dominated this week by stories of high street premises which have been affected by asbestos. In November, Acorn Analytical Services shone a spotlight on the growing epidemic in towns and cities across the UK and urged companies and shop owners to put the safety of their staff and customers … Read more

Reducing asbestos in schools should be a clear priority

‘Reducing asbestos in schools should be our first priority’

FOR many years the team at Acorn Analytical Services has been calling for full asbestos risk assessments to be carried out in schools right across the UK. With many schools having been built during the post-war period when the use of asbestos was at its highest, we fear that many school buildings still contain the … Read more