Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Asbestos Fears for Port Hedland Tug Workers

Maritime Union of AustraliaImage via WikipediaAustralian Mining's website reported on October 5, 2011, that up to 10 workers at BHP Billiton’s (BHP) Port Hedland site were exposed to asbestos after completing maintenance work on a tug boat.  According to the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) crew from Teekay Shipping, a BHP contractor, were exposed to chrysotile, or white asbestos, while removing gasket material on the Star Voyager last month.  Two weeks earlier Teekay workers at Port Hedland walked off the job after asbestos was found in the gasket joining material on another tug, the PB Fitzroy.  Both the Star Voyager and PB Fitzroy were built by Chinese shipmaker Cheoy Lee Shipyards.
Here is the problem, even though Australia has banned the use of asbestos in their country.  That does not prohibit the use of asbestos in products that Australia buys.  Which is the same problem the United States has.
This incident exposed workers to asbestos for 24 hours, and in one case, exposed the worker's family to asbestos after returning home from work in contaminated workclothes.  Workers must be aware of the potential hazards in the materials they work with or otherwise how will they know how to protect themselves.
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