Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022

Hundreds of workers have walked out of the construction site by rebuilding Queen’s Wharf in Brisbane amid asbestos problems in materials used on site, the union representing construction workers has said.

It came after the supplier of the fire-rated plasterboard, USG Boral, sent a letter to its customers warning of “very low levels of asbestos pollution” found in the company’s west west of Sydney.

The health warning prompted hundreds of workers to leave the $ 3.6 billion redevelopment site as a safety precaution while testing.

But late on Tuesday, the construction company that manages the site, Multiplex, said tests had not found traces of asbestos at the redevelopment in Brisbane.

The CFMEU said the product was used in indoor areas that required fire assessment, as well as in staff lunch rooms at the Queen’s Wharf site.

The union said it was “impossible to know at this time” how many other places around the country might have been drawn to a precautionary stop.

Asbestos is found in imported materials

USG Boral said the asbestos contamination was found in vermiculite imported from China into products at its western plant in Sydney.

It asked that the product be “quarantined” while awaiting the results of further tests.

A look at Destination Brisbane Consortium's winning bid for the rebuilding of Brisbane's Queen Wharf
The $ 3.6 billion redevelopment is expected to be open to the public in early 2023.(Delivered to: destinationbrisbaneconsortium.com.au/)

CFMEU National Secretary Dave Noonan said this was an example of the risks associated with imported materials.

“Asbestos has been banned from importing, manufactured or extracted in Australia for decades, but in a number of countries, including China, asbestos continues to be used,” he said.

Noonan said there was a track record of similar products stopping progress on major infrastructure projects and endangering workers’ health.

“It happened on William Street 1 in Brisbane, and it happened at the Children’s Hospital of Perth when the site was built – we have seen imported construction products containing asbestos come in from China,” he said.

USG Boral said only small amounts of the vermiculite ingredient were used in its products.

In the letter, USG Boral CEO Tony Charnock said it was “likely that this contamination took place at the source of the vermiculite mining” and “before delivery” at their sites.

The company has announced that it had “stopped using the Chinese vermiculite” in the wake of the pollution.

The redevelopment of Queen’s Wharf is expected to be completed in the first half of 2023.

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