9 Mar 2010

Asbestos confirmed in shipment to Australia from NZ

9:26 pm on 9 March 2010

One of Australia's largest oil and gas companies says asbestos has been found in equipment imported from New Zealand.

However, Woodside says contrary to earlier reports, no workers were exposed to the lethal material.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union had claimed at least eight workers had been directly exposed to dangerously high levels of asbestos while working on Woodside's Pluto liquified natural gas project in Western Australia.

Dozens of others were thought to be at risk from secondary contact with the dust.

In a statement to Radio New Zealand News, Woodside said potentially affected areas were immediately quarantined after workers' complaints.

Subsequent testing by an independent laboratory confirmed that the equipment removed by workers, which was made in Britain, did not contain asbestos.

Woodside says, however, some gaskets used in the packaging of equipment made by an unnamed New Zealand company were confirmed to be made of compressed asbestos.

A licenced asbestos removal contractor is reviewing the site and identifying and removing all gaskets found to contain asbestos.