The discovery of asbestos at the $1.2 billion new Perth children’s hospital is expected to have implications for major national projects around Australia.
It is the second time in a week that giant Chinese company Yuanda has been caught providing products containing asbestos in Australia, after the lethal material was found in gaskets at a Brisbane office tower.
The asbestos was found by accident when a worker using an angle grinder cut into a panel and a suspicious looking white powder fell out.
More than 20 workers were present and at least 40 have registered concerns they were exposed and want medical tests, given the site was not isolated for 24 hours after the dust was released.
Some workers are anxious about the fact that they went home in dirty work clothes and exposed their children and partners, said CFMEU state secretary Mick Buchan.
The union has called for an urgent meeting with Yuanda, saying it should discuss all of the projects it has supplied to in Australia.
Yuanda has supplied products for the new Perth Stadium due to be finished next year, the new Fiona Stanley Hospital, the Royal Adelaide Hospital and Adelaide Health and Medical and Research Institute building, which will be scrutinised for asbestos.
Asbestos is banned in Australia and most developed countries because breathing in its fibres causes cancer, but it is still widely used in China.
Head contractor John Holland will now conduct an audit of all imported building materials at the site, but Opposition Health spokesman Roger Cook called for a full independent audit.
John Holland project director Lindsay Albonico insisted the company followed the correct processes in ensuring safety accreditations for its products but was speaking to Yuanda to find out what went wrong in its supply chain.
WA’s acting under-treasurer Richard Mann said it was surprising and concerning that products made by a major global manufacturer and accredited in China and Australia, the latter by Aurecon, were found to have asbestos.
“The implications are broader than this project and a really serious issue,” he told reporters.
Health Minister John Day said John Holland could have had better tests of its products and the government might need to look at the awarding of the tender nearly five years ago.
“There have certainly been plenty of issues along the way, with the completion of the project taking longer than expected … it is disappointing,” he said.