The builder of the new $1.2 billion Perth Children’s Hospital has not been blamed for asbestos found in ceiling panels but should have done more to protect the health of workers.

The asbestos was discovered inside fibre-cement ceiling panels in July by a worker who had been cutting into them, sparking fears he and his colleagues could suffer ill health from the exposure.

In his interim report on Tuesday, Building Commissioner Peter Gow said Chinese company Yuanda had provided the lead contractor, John Holland, a certificate labelling the sheeting asbestos-free.

Yuanda said that's what it had asked its suppliers for, but was instead provided with product containing asbestos without its knowledge.

Mr Gow said John Holland's procurement processes were "satisfactory", as were its clean up and remediation processes, but there was evidence it could have had better dust control.

"Any dust that comes out of construction has its hazards be it saw dust, stone dust, cement dust and so on; so people need to be very cautious that any dust is potentially hazardous," he told reporters.

The CFMEU accused John Holland of taking a cavalier approach to worker health, saying the report failed to address why the company didn't immediately halt work on the project.

"Furthermore, it appears the commissioner has failed to establish why it was that John Holland kept workers operating in the vicinity while tests were being carried out on the product," state secretary Mick Buchan said.

Mr Gow said Yuanda's inaccurate certificate showed builders needed to verify that the products they used did not contain asbestos.

"We need to work with our colleagues in other states to make sure there are proper processes in place to help builders, suppliers and specifiers to ensure they are getting what they expect," he said.

"We can't really be 100 per cent sure that these materials may not contain asbestos."

Boycotting Yuanda would be an overreaction, he said, but the company, which is being investigated by Border Force for suspected illegal imports, would need to improve its quality-control processes.

Yuanda Australia said the company took the concerns very seriously.

"The company is continuing its own thorough review to determine how incorrect products were used in the manufacturing process," it said.

  • I'm sure I have made similar comment on a similar issue published by Sourceable before and happy you continue to try and raise better awareness of this problem, though typical for the last decade only seems to be expanding and not being effectively shut down. Agree with Anne that penalties through the supply chain need to be harsh enough to trigger change and ignore the same excuses and lame shifting trotted out. The duty of care of Persons Conducting a Business Undertaking cannot be avoided by pointing to a material certificate of compliance when those of us who have been dealing in supply from certain countries are well aware of the pragmatic approach taken by some manufacturers to stamp or certify whatever is specified without linking it to the actual product itself. Under current legislation, If a matter such as this reached the courts, the question will be raised about it being reasonable for any senior managers to expect that paper certification may by chance, not be legitimate, especially when dealing with a new supplier not already independently checked. It would be reasonable to have such products independently verified, especially for potentially dangerous substitutes and where enough history has been established for an amber warning. I believe there have been plenty of similar cases documented, enough that a case like this demonstrates 'head-in-the-sand' expediency ahead of that duty of care.

  • Nothing surprises anymore. What seems to be happening here is that we have the 'circle of denial', whereby the blame goes round and round – from builder to supplier, to retailer, and then to importer, etc. All do probably know -for a start the price is a giveaway, and of course a proper, robust regulatory regime with those responsible held responsible.

    In truth if there was a will from anyone anywhere to curb this endemic – and SOME SERIOUS PENALTIES FOR THE OFFENDERS – these practices would cease immediately, or be very much minimized. What is crystal clear is that there is no concern from those at the top of the chain. Workers' lives and consumers' lives, be it serious injuries or deaths, or be it an enormous financial loss and lives irreparably damaged or lost, these lives are of no value. It's worth pointing out that these two groups, workers and consumers, have no say over the 'control' or processes of this system. They are the silent majority, but quite obviously their lives are of no consequence and the negative outcomes irrelevant.

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