Five buildings closed at Unitec in Auckland after asbestos detected

Five buildings at Unitec in Auckland are being sealed off tonight following the detection of “unacceptable levels” of asbestos.

In a statement from Don Brady, chair of the incident management team, the tertiary institute said due to the identification of a health and safety hazard five buildings at the Mt Albert campus will be closed as a precautionary measure until after Easter.

The rest of the campus will remain open.

“All teaching normally delivered out of these buildings must be relocated or moved online immediately, if this isn’t possible, classes will need to be cancelled.

“We understand the disruption this will cause, particularly in light of recent lockdowns.

“However, we take our responsibility to maintain the health and safety of our staff and students seriously and Buildings 111, 112, 113, 114 and 115 will be sealed off from 10pm tonight,” Brady said.

This was being done to enable extensive internal and external testing of asbestos levels, he said.

“The detection of unacceptable levels of asbestos on level 3 of Building 113 last week highlighted a need to provide a more conclusive picture of asbestos levels and the level of risk in surrounding areas. No further areas of concern were identified previously.

“Testing conducted by our specialist monitoring contractor has today identified asbestos on landings, window sills and other external areas outside Buildings 112-115.

“Based on the advice provided by our contractor, a six-metre perimeter will be established around the affected buildings this afternoon.”

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral made up of many small fibres.

The Ministry of Health says asbestos is a proven human carcinogen and all forms of asbestos can cause cancer.

“The main way people are exposed to asbestos is by breathing in air that contains asbestos fibres.”

A staff member told the Herald he was told at 4pm he had 30 minutes to get stuff from his office before Unitec closed five three-storey buildings that have traces of asbestos.

He said the buildings contain lecture rooms and staff offices.

“Asbestos has been detected in the air inside the buildings and on various parts of the building. They are currently erecting a 6-metre perimeter fence around all the buildings.

“Staff have been told to teach from home until after Easter. I estimate this will affect thousands of staff and students,” the staff member said.

Brady said Unitec was working to provide support for learning delivery until the end of the Easter break.

The buildings would remain closed while specialists had treated the asbestos, cleaned the area and remediated the air. If other specific areas were identified with higher asbestos reading, affected staff and students would be contacted directly by the incident management team to discuss the next steps.

“A number of specialists in PPE gear will be conducting further tests, please don’t be alarmed if you see this work underway.

WorkSafe and Unitec’s Health and Safety team were assisting with the response and students were being informed.

“In spite of the precautions and countermeasures we have taken, if you still feel anxious or uneasy, please speak to your Heads of School about alternative working arrangements until the situation is entirely remediated.”

Source: Read Full Article