Dozens of workers on the WestConnex project could potentially have been exposed to poisonous chemicals including asbestos, silica dust and lead, the CFMEU NSW has warned, following a ‘shocking’ safety breach discovery.
Darren Greenfield, CFMEU NSW Construction Secretary, said workers at the M4-M5 Link Tunnels site in St Peters raised concerns with the union after drilling works turned up a black sludge material that smelled and ate away at the bottom of their work boots.
“A recent hygienist report found a toxic soup of contaminants at the former landfill site including asbestos, lead, carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (cPAHs), PCBs, and dioxins,” Mr Greenfield said.
“Safety inspections at the site revealed workers had been supplied with insufficient PPE, air monitoring equipment was not working and that contaminated spoil from excavation work was not appropriately isolated.”
Mr Greenfield said it has been revealed that the City of Sydney also warned that land adjoining the site which was set aside to become parkland is too highly contaminated for public use.
“How is it that the site is not safe for public recreation, but it is good enough for construction workers to dig up and work in?”
“The company and the NSW Government knew this site was highly contaminated, yet they have allowed construction workers to be exposed to toxic chemicals.”
NSW safety blitz reveals widespread breaches
Mr Greenfield said the WestConnex site is one of the worst for safety breaches uncovered by the CFMEU during an ongoing safety blitz on Sydney and NSW construction sites.
He noted that the union has uncovered significant safety issues on some of Sydney’s biggest construction sites in recent weeks. These include a building site in Sydney where workers were exposed to a risk of a six-storey fall over an unprotected edge, a major power failure at a site in Wynyard last week that brought work to a standstill, and raw sewerage from broken pipes leaking at the Crown Casino site in Barangaroo.
“The CFMEU had also raised safety concerns at a demolition site in Gosford where a scaffolding subsequently collapsed into the street in August, injuring one woman, destroying several cars and narrowly avoiding catastrophe,” Mr Greenfield said.
“The union also attended a site on Thursday where a crane had almost toppled into an open pit on a site in Petersham.”
“NSW builders need to stop taking short cuts on safety. The union will not back down from holding to account any builder who thinks they can put their profits ahead of the lives and safety of construction workers.”