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Dust cloud over worker safety: asbestos alarm at Sydney’s first skyscraper, the AMP rebuild

by Callum Foote | Nov 18, 2022 | Business, Latest Posts

Construction workers at Sydney landmark, the AMP building have been exposed to asbestos. But those responsible aren’t talking. Exclusive MWM report by Callum Foote.

Construction workers refurbishing the AMP building in Circular Quay have been exposed to asbestos. MWM understands approximately 30 workers have so far been required to undergo medical examinations.

Exposure to the deadly mineral appears to be a significant failure of process, and has been condemned by the construction union. 

Other parties have not responded to questions by MWM.

The AMP building, at 33 Alfred Street, was Sydney’s first skyscraper. It was opened by prime minister Robert Menzies in 1962. The building is now owned by Canadian multinational Colliers International, AMP Capital and Dexus.

Construction company Built was appointed earlier this year as the builder for a $160 million refurbishment of the 60-year-old building.

MWM understands that given the significant asbestos risk of buildings of that era, Built contracted Metropolitan Demolitions for demolition work. Metropolitan Demolitions then contracted Australasian Technical Services for asbestos removal.

Example of asbestos contamination (source: supplied)

Australasian Technical Services then contracted EnviroX as an asbestos hygienist which was approved by Built.

This contract was terminated in November due to concerns that asbestos wasn’t being handled properly, with alternative hygienist Property Risk Australia (PRA) being contracted in their place.

Sources within the CFMEU have said that there were concerns surrounding EnviroX’s performance which culminated in Property Risk Australia (PRA) taking over as the site’s asbestos hygienist recently.

According to sources, PRA found evidence of asbestos contamination on the ground floor as well as floors 8 and 18. The asbestos was in the form of a fireproofing spray that covered one in every 10 or so bricks that workers were required to throw into a dumpster without appropriate protective equipment.

 MWM understands approximately 30 workers have thus far been required to undergo medical examinations.

 PRA almost immediately found asbestos on the ground floor and levels 8 and 18.

Sources say that the rest of the building is now being tested, but potentially anyone who has unloaded bricks on the site over the past few months could have come into asbestos without knowing it and without protective equipment.

There are also fears that given asbestos contamination is present on the levels currently tested then it will be found on other levels as well.

Built has confirmed that construction has been halted:

“We confirm the 33 Alfred Street construction site has been temporarily shut down due to the identification of potential hazardous materials uncovered during demolition works. The safety of people is our top priority and appropriate WHS measures and protocols have been implemented while further investigations are undertaken.”

Properly contained asbestos (source: supplied)

The CFMEU called on Safework NSW, Built and AMP to stop ‘’flouting the regulations’’ around asbestos.

The CFMEU NSW has been in discussions with Safework NSW and Built to stop Safework giving dispensation to Built to work outside the regulations in relation to contaminants at the 33 Alfred Street site,’’ said the union’s state secretary, Darren Greenfield.

Ignoring our submissions, Safework approved Built to work outside the regulations. The CFMEU has refused to support this decision and has continually asked the builder to work within the regulations.

Now we find at least 70 workers have now been exposed to asbestos. The CFMEU will be writing to Safework NSW demanding they revoke any approval to work outside the regulations.

Colliers International has refused to comment. Metropolitan Demolitions has refused to comment. Property Risk Australia has refused to comment. EnviroX Consulting has refused to comment.

Callum Foote was a reporter for Michael West Media for four years.

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