Hazelwood asbestos scare forces change

Workers on a maintenance shut at Hazelwood Power Station have been able to return to work following an asbestos scare.

Twelve workers may have been exposed to the harmful fibre in a unit six workspace on 12 October, according to the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

A GDF Suez Hazelwood spokesperson said the gasket where the asbestos was exposed was immediately sealed and initial sampling of the material identified a small amount of white asbestos, but air-sampling in the surrounding area found no evidence of airborne material.

At the request of the union, further independent sampling was conducted and no asbestos was detected.

The workers returned to the area on Thursday following the results.

AMWU organiser Steve Dodd said the union had negotiated changes to contractor UGL’s asbestos procedure as a result of the incident, which would include increased communication with the union and occupational health and safety representatives to make sure work spaces were clean.

The newly negotiated procedures were put to the test on Friday, when further traces of asbestos were found on the turbine floor and boiler areas.

A subsequent quarantine and further monitoring saw the workers return to work later that evening.

“We’ve put some rigour into it where they have to supply all test documentation to the union,” Mr Dodd said.

“They have to go back and give a debrief to the workplace and an inspection of the site will be conducted by the union and health and safety representatives prior to anybody going back on the job.

“We believe this will stop any miscommunication or any flaws in the process of dealing with asbestos issues.”