WorkSafe ACT inspectors will carry out further testing to determine the extent of the exposure.
ABC WorkSafe ACT inspectors will carry out further testing to determine the extent of the exposure.

The discovery of asbestos fibres in a commercial building in Canberra’s inner-north has forced the shut down of several businesses.

Tests carried out by WorkSafe ACT on Thursday confirmed the presence of the potentially deadly fibres in a commercial building backing onto Woolley Street in Dickson.

Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe says it appears fibres are coming from the roof which is constructed of compressed asbestos.

“The fibres are collecting in the enclosed space of the businesses which are below that,” he said.

“Although their not coming down in great quantities, because they’re collecting there and people are walking about, that disturbs it and pushes those fibres up into the air and that’s when there’s a risk of people inhaling it.”

The businesses were closed immediately and it is not yet clear how long workers may have been exposed.

“Continued use of this building in its current state could lead to a high risk of exposure to friable asbestos,” Mr McCabe said.

More thorough testing of all the businesses will be conducted today to further clarify the situation.

Mr McCabe says it could be weeks before the businesses can reopen.

“We have to work out how much clean-up has to happen within the businesses, does the roof need to be replaced, does it need to be encapsulated?” he said.

“If the roof needs to be replaced that could be a major job.”

WorkSafe ACT will also investigate the circumstances which led to the exposure and if the building owner failed to meet their work health and safety obligations.

“To see what action the building owner should have been taking, or whether they were aware of this, and had they taken appropriate action to make sure the building was in a fit state for use for business,” Mr McCabe said.

Inspectors say the odds of the potentially deadly fibres contaminating nearby buildings are very low.

“While we believe that the likelihood of exposure for members of the public is low, if members of the public are concerned about possible exposure to asbestos, they should contact their local general practitioner,” Mr McCabe said.


Asbestos discovery closes Dickson businesses