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AMWU at loggerheads with FMG over rail wagon asbestos

Rail bogie assemblies imported in chinese wagons contained asbestos

The AMWU has hit out at Fortescue Metals Group over the removal of white asbestos (contained in friction wear plates in train bogies) contained in 3384  rail wagons imported from China.

According to reports in 2017, Fortescue Metals (FMG) identified that chrysotile asbestos was located in the train bogies and reported it to the regulator. WorkSafe WA immediately issued an improvement notice to FMG in September 2017 providing a period of two years to remove and dispose of the asbestos-containing material.

Mr McLaren said the work had started recently and about four cars per day were being completed.

“They’re only cracking on a year after the improvement notice was issued,” he said.

FMG Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Gaines said FMG had been testing potential replacement parts since it discovered the problem.

“Since October (2018), 958 of the 3384 cars impacted have had their parts safely changed,” she said.

Ms Gaines said FMG was on track to complete the work by the regulators’ September 2019 deadline.

AMWU asbestos removal
The AMWU claims that the procedures used by FMG are inadequate to protect workers outside of the asbestos removal area

Mr McLaren from the AMWU said the asbestos removal workers had inadequate decontamination facilities. He claimed that workers were hosing themselves down at the end of a shift with a hand pumped water spray as used by gardeners.

The AMWU is concerned that other workers in the vicinity of the project could be exposed to asbestos fibre and confirmed that the bunded zone to separate the asbestos work areas “is two witches hats with a bit of tape over it. There has been no worker surveillance or health monitoring,” the union claimed.

Ms Gaines said the work complied with the code of practice for the removal of non-friable asbestos.

Ms Gaines said independent monitoring from the outset had identified an extremely low risk of exposure for employees and periodic monitoring, that would continue, had continued to reinforce this.

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AMSJ April 2022