Tools Down As Asbestos Found At Sydney Opera House

'The union is extremely concerned'

Tools Down As Asbestos Found At Sydney Opera House

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Electricians on site at Sydney Opera House have been ordered to stop work after asbestos fibres were found during a $200 million refurbishment of the iconic building.

An Electrical Trades Union (ETU) ban has ruled out any work covering accessing risers and penetrations that carry electrical services between floors and through walls, as well as work on troffer ceiling lights, Nine News reports.

While electrical contractor Downer and builder Laing O'Rourke were reportedly notified of the possible presence of asbestos last Monday, ETU NSW assistant secretary Justin Page said "almost all" electricians contracted by Downer were yet to undergo asbestos safety and awareness training.

“The union is extremely concerned that, almost a week after tests confirmed the presence of asbestos in work areas, the builder Laing O'Rourke and electrical contractor Downer have failed to undertake adequate risk assessments,” Mr Page said today.

“Alarmingly, it took several days for the union to be informed of this serious issue while SafeWork NSW has still not been contacted by the companies, despite it constituting a reportable safety incident.

“The union has today written to all members advising them of an immediate ban on any work on site involving risers, penetrations, and troffer lights.”

Mr Page said the union has demanded a full risk assessment alongside immediate training for its contractors.

“Laing O'Rourke and Downer have a legal and moral obligation to ensure every worker at the Opera House who is at risk of asbestos exposure has proper training in safe work methods along with full personal protective equipment before having them work in areas where asbestos is likely to be present,” he said.

“The union takes asbestos safety extremely seriously given medical research has confirmed that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, with even a single fibre capable of causing deadly cancer.

“It is alarming that on a major NSW Government-funded project we have seen such disregard for appropriate safety standards, putting workers at serious risk.”