As Western Australia moves to tighten asbestos-handling compliance, workers on Chevron’s Barrow Island Gorgon gas project have commenced partial work stoppages, claiming they have been exposed to the known carcinogen.
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has alleged that Chevron and its construction contractor, Kellogg Joint Venture (KJV), intentionally did not advise shipping staff that barrels to be transported from the island to the mainland contained asbestos.
Concerns were first raised in October last year, according to the union, when staff from shipping company Mermaid noticed asbestos-like debris on drums and pallets slated for transport. The union also claimed that following its members handing a sample of the debris to a KJV safety manager in December, it took weeks and repeated requests to access the results of tests. The union claims that Mermaid employees were told in January that asbestos was present and claim also that it is known to have been used in pipes and fencing when oilfields were first developed.
According to The West Australian newspaper, WorkCover WA has confirmed that the site, which is to be developed as worker villages, did contain asbestos, however Chevron has not confirmed this.
The MUA’s WA branch secretary, Chris Cain, said it has requested an inquiry into the claims by Chevron, the Government and WorkSafe WA.
Noting large amounts of asbestos still spread across the state, WorkSafe WA in December last year amended its guidelines to restrict the handling of 10 square metres or more of “bonded asbestos”, including cement, to staff who have completed an approved training course. The new rules commence on 1 June this year.