Swift precautionary action taken by Unitec Institute of Technology to help ensure the health and safety of its staff and learners has received strong support from Worksafe NZ.
Five buildings at Unitec’s Mt Albert campus have been closed temporarily to enable extensive internal and external testing of asbestos levels.
The rest of Unitec’s Mt Albert campus will remain open.
Yesterday afternoon, Unitec leadership was notified that testing conducted by a specialist contractor identified asbestos on external surfaces of Buildings 111, 112, 113, 114 and 115.
Monitoring of asbestos levels has been ongoing since the closure of level 3 in building 113 last week after renovations in a small lab led to the detection of unacceptable levels of asbestos in that section of the building.
Unitec CEO Gus Gilmore says, “We understand and apologise for the disruption this will cause. However, we take our responsibility to maintain the health and safety of our staff and students very seriously. Protecting their health and wellbeing is imperative while we gather more conclusive and sound data on the level of risk posed.”
Teaching and learning previously carried out in the affected buildings will move online where possible and Unitec’s Academic Recovery Committee (ARC) are wrapping further support around areas in need of additional resource and focus.
In accordance with advice from experts, a six-metre perimeter around the affected buildings will be established and further testing will be conducted over the coming days and weeks.
Unitec’s Incident Management Team Chair Dan Brady says, “The affected buildings will remain closed while further specialists are engaged to treat the asbestos, clean the area and remediate the air. If further specific areas are identified with a higher threshold of asbestos we will take action to ensure the proper precautions are followed.”
Over the coming days further testing by experts in appropriate PPE gear will be carried out to try and locate the source and help determine the next steps.
Gus Gilmore says, “We’re privileged to have our own asbestos researcher’s Dr Terri-Ann Berry and Dr Dan Blanchon onsite helping guide our approach, alongside WorkSafe and our Health and Safety team and we’re working closely with our experts to establish a centralised portal of factual and clear information for our staff, students and partners.”
The closure of the buildings is expected to stay in place until after the Easter holiday period but continuous monitoring and assessment of the situation will be ongoing as further information comes to light.
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