WorkCover to investigate asbestos

Coffs Harbour Police station’s rear entrance.
Coffs Harbour Police station’s rear entrance. Rob Wright

WORKCOVER has been called in to inspect “asbestos-riddled” police stations and offices in NSW, including a building at the dilapidated Coffs Harbour station.

It comes after the Police Association accused the force of covering up the risk asbestos and hazardous materials posed to police officers and staff in aging stations.

The union has written to WorkCover and called for an investigation into possible breaches of health and safety.

It refers to a police report saying 460 police facilities contain asbestos, lead paint or both in NSW and that police management has known about the issues for some years.

The local concern rests with a building at the rear of the Coffs Harbour station, used as the office for highway patrol and Target Action Group officers.

The union claims police are at risk, while the force’s top brass says the site has been the subject of a thorough survey and there’s no high-risk asbestos (blue asbestos or crocidolite asbestos) present.

“There has been an asbestos management plan in place for that site which involves constant moni- toring and the low-risk rating (A3-A4) has not changed,” said Superintendent Darryl Tuck of the NSW Police Properties Group said.

“Areas where there is fibro material containing asbestos are clearly identified by appropriate signage.

“The NSWPF believes that we have met our duty of care to our staff for this site.”

Police Association Northern Region executive member Detective Tony King said the exposure to any grade of asbestos was harmful therefore the building was placing police at risk.

“When you consider that the NSW Police Force has known about this since 2008 and done nothing about it; that is the real issue here,” Det King said.

He said there was a legal and moral obligation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to notify police working in this office, so they did not disturb the asbestos.

“The Police Force instead chose to place police at risk and bury the report for three years,” Det King said.

“The Police Association has demanded that WorkCover launch an immediate investigation into this incident with a view to laying charges against the Police Force for breaches of the Occupational Health & Safety Act.”

Police Association president Scott Webber said: “We’ve seen massive problems at stations such as Coffs Harbour, Wetherill Park, Lithgow and the Sydney Police Centre, and only now are NSW Police and the (State) Government doing something about it.”

Topics:  asbestos investigation police

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