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Why the WestConnex furore highlights the need for more WHS professionals
Any motorist who lives and works in the Sydney area has surely heard of the WestConnex motorway scheme. In short, it's a project that entails widening and extending the M4 Western Motorway, adding a new section to the M5 South Western, and creating a new inner bypass of the Sydney CBD that will join the M4 and M5. Such an ambitious project doesn't come cheap, with the cost looking to hit AU$16.8 billion, and the scheme itself has been labelled as the largest transport project in the city since the Harbour Bridge was built.
However, the cost of the project, as well as a raft of other issues, has seen the WestConnex motorway scheme mired in controversy, and now an alarming new development has come to light – the alleged presence of asbestos in the road base of the new motorway.
A riddled road?
News agencies across the country are reporting that a former employee of Sydney excavation company, Moits, was supplying road base riddled with asbestos for use on the WestConnex project. Of course, such claims are highly serious, and so SafeWork NSW have now got involved. They are currently investigating Moits' practices at the recycling plant, with the end goal of figuring out whether or not WestConnex is being built with contaminated products.
Moits, though, is denying the allegations, stating that it unequivocally does not, and never will recycle anything that contains asbestos. Going forwards, Moits has stated that they will give their full cooperation to regulatory authorities such as SafeWork NSW to show them just how safe their work processes are – and that the wellbeing of the firm's employees is not in doubt. So how did these allegations actually come about?
A serious allegation
The ex-employee in question, Daniel McIntyre, worked for Moits as a weighbridge operator, as well as a quality control trainee, at a rock and dirt recycling plant in western Sydney. Part of the facility's main operations involves taking receipt of demolition waste from Sydney's various building sites, which is then crushed and given a new lease of life as road base.
It was Mr McIntyre's job to lead a team of staff in hunting through piles of rubble to discard anything that could not be put through. His team were allegedly given just 10 minutes to sift through each 30-tonne load – a small timeframe for such an undertaking.
Moits does not have the necessary licensing to receive anything that contains asbestos, but Mr McIntyre states that he and his team would regularly find sections of broken asbestos sheeting – every day, in fact.
"On some days it was quite clean, we'd maybe get four or five pieces, on other days you could have we'd pick out maybe 20 pieces. We had three guys going through roughly 30 tonnes – times five – per hour so there was no way you could pick it all out. It was impossible," said Mr McIntyre to ABC.
"We had three guys going through roughly 30 tonnes – times five – per hour so there was no way you could pick it all out. It was impossible."
A new lease of life
When Mr McIntyre noted that the road base was headed for the WestConnex project, as well as other construction sites all over Sydney, he called for a meeting with his management, and was promptly fired for 'being a troublemaker', he alleges.
"My concerns are that people there are being put at risk. And my concerns are that there is asbestos that's free floating that's being crushed and it's dust and it's being sent out into businesses and homes and other places in Sydney and it poses a potential risk to the public," Mr McIntyre concluded.
Whether or not these claims turn out to be true or not, it just goes to show that asbestos remains a big problem across Australia. Hence, there remains a strong need for asbestos removal professionals the nation over, so be sure to get in touch with the team at AlertForce to gain your formal qualifications.
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