Safety concerns rise as asbestos sees Brisbane Metro Project workers down tools

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
4 Min Read

Tradies at a Brisbane worksite have been left “concerned” after asbestos was discovered at their construction site late last week.

Workers dug up an asbestos-riddled concrete slab at the King George Square construction zone, where work is being done as part of the Brisbane Metro project.

In a video posted online, site workers bemoaned the ongoing works and lack of appropriate signage after the deadly substance was discovered.

“In there is asbestos. No asbestos signage,” the video poster said in the clip.

“No, nothing is stopping anyone (or) making anyone aware that asbestos has been found in the area.”

Work was eventually halted on Friday to investigate the discovery after tradies downed tools after concerns grew surrounding site health and safety.

Signage has since been added, and a cordon has been applied to the area where the deadly substance was discovered.

However, the Construction, Forestry and Maritime Employees Union says those measures are not up to standard.

“Members of the union had complained about potential exposure to deadly asbestos fibres,” CFMEU National President Jade Ingham said.

“(There was) no isolation of the area, no SafeWork method statements, no exclusion tape, no decontamination.”

How dangerous is Asbestos in 2024

Asbestos is a hazardous material that was previously used in the construction and insulation of buildings.

Australian construction was a massive consumer of asbestos for decades until its use was prohibited in late 2003, and about one in three buildings still contain asbestos, including homes, schools, and workplaces.

Breathing in loose fibres can consequently lead those exposed to developing dust diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, asbestos-related pleural disease and even lung cancer later in life.

The fibres can remain deep within the lung, lodged in the lung tissue, leading to inflammation, scarring, and asbestos-related severe diseases – which usually take many years, if not decades, to show physical signs.

Symptoms relating to asbestos can take up to 60 years to show, with no recorded safe levels of exposure.

Concerned tradies urged to document contact

Workers at the site who believe they came into close contact with the substance have since been encouraged to document their potential exposure and notify their GP while it’s still fresh in their minds.

“Asbestos continues to have a devastating impact on Australians with about 800 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed and approximately 4,000 asbestos-related deaths occurring each year,” Slater and Gordon asbestos diseases lawyer Sean Sweeney said.

“Our asbestos register aims to help people document their exposure while it’s still fresh in their minds, which can protect their legal rights to compensation if they go on and develop asbestos-related diseases,” he said.

“Knowing where they were exposed can help speed up the legal process and get them their entitlements earlier than it would if we had to investigate when and where they may have been exposed.”

Brisbane City Council have stated they were aware of the asbestos removal works and are investigating claims that the correct health and safety protocols were not implemented.

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.