The Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Hon. Jone Usamate stated that works at the Suva Civic Centre building by SCC Contractors have ceased from yesterday afternoon by the National Occupational Health and Safety Service of the Ministry for SCC and their contractors to improve safe work procedures on asbestos material removal.

“This follows the release of the assessment report from Pacifica Environmental Services (PES) and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP) recently,” Minister Usamate said.

The Minister specifically stressed that the asbestos identified in the SPREP report received yesterday contains 30 per cent of asbestos from the bulk material tested and is not airborne.

Minister Usamate highlighted that the Enforcement Officers of the National OHS Service have been dealing with the issue since the start of the demolition works on the site and the Suva City Council (SCC) as the owner of the building have been issued with a directive for all workers and contractors to vacate the site immediately and this is in addition to the prohibition notice issued earlier.

“SCC has been directed and is currently working on sealing off all the building openings and have cordoned off the surrounding areas with immediate effect.

“This is to contain any deposit of asbestos within the building until proper asbestos removal procedures are formulated by SCC and approved by NOHSS.

“SCC has also been directed to hire a consultant to immediately undertake air sampling inside the building and areas close to the Suva Civic Centre. This is to ensure that the surrounding does not contain any hazardous material in the air,” Minister Usamate added.

In the meantime, SCC has also been directed to carry out a controlled wash-down of the buildings close to the Civic Centre building.

The Minister wishes to advise the general public on the following:
1. Do not panic as the chances of air contamination is low due to containment works already undertaken and other materials which may contain asbestos are still intact and poses no threat;
2. Refrain from traveling through Town Hall Road or near the vicinity of the Suva Civic Centre;
3. Close monitoring will be done by the Employment Ministry in consultation with SCC, Contractors and the Consultants involved.
4. Further update will be provided before any work resumes on site.

Minister Usamate further highlighted that exposure to asbestos can lead to illness and diseases in the long term.