The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) reports that the workers of Woodside Petroleum's Pluto liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects located at Western Australia have been exposed to high levels of asbestos.
Steve McCartney, the state secretary of the union says that independent tests on imported grinding gaskets have been carried out and they showed that eight contractors had been exposed to toxic levels of asbestos. More workers became concerned and demanded testing of the equipments.
McCartney adds that the contractors of the engineering group Monadelphous were directly exposed and the number of employees, who had been indirectly exposed to the level of asbestos that went beyond the Australian safety standard, is unknown.
He says, It's outrageous that in the year 2010, Australian workers continue to have their life expectancy put at risk due to dangerous levels of asbestos. Failure by Woodside to closely monitor its materials had placed the workers' lives at a risk. He believes that the fabrication work should be done in Australia where the strict policies will see that the workers are not put at risk.
He continues saying that though the exportation of this work derives short-term profits, the long term health and safety of Australians are greatly compromised. It's a disgrace that Woodside do not have checks and balances in place for imported Third World products, says McCartney.
The union has written to the company requiring the details of procedures that will be put in place, to guarantee that no more workers will be exposed to asbestos. Brown and white asbestos were found in the grinding gaskets that came from New Zealand, according to the ABC.
The union also demanded to know the line of action that will be taken by Woodside in order to protect the health of workers who had been exposed. Woodside has recently identified the gaskets made of compressed asbestos fibre used in the packaging of imported equipment for the Pluto LNG Project.
The company says that the potentially affected areas have been immediately quarantined and an investigation that is in line with Woodside's standard safety and consultation process has been initiated.
Woodside also states that a licensed asbestos removal contractor had examined the site and safely eliminated all the compressed asbestos fibre gaskets and air sampling had shown nothing to worry about.