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Home | Blog | Working with asbestos – what you need to know Ian's story

Asbestos cement products were commonly manufactured from the early 1920s. Asbestos was extensively used in construction materials from the 1920s, right up to the mid-1980s. Asbestos containing pipes were manufactured until 1987. Asbestos fibro products were an affordable, long-lasting, fire-retardant and easy to use building material.

Asbestos may be present in a number of building materials used around the home and commercial properties. These include the exterior walls, internal walls (especially in wet areas), fencing, roofing, shingles and siding, eaves, backing material on floor tiles and vinyl flooring and water or flue pipes.

Although not everyone who comes into contact with asbestos will get sick, it’s important to keep in mind that for some, very low exposure to asbestos dust is enough to trigger asbestos disease.

What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is an incurable cancer caused by asbestos. When inhaled asbestos fibres can penetrate the lung causing cancer in the lining of the lung (pleura), or penetrate the bowel or stomach causing cancer in the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum).

What to do if you find asbestos on a building site or in your own home?

If there is any dust or debris do not attempt to clean up any dust or debris yourself.

Do not remove any asbestos materials yourself. If you remove or dispose of asbestos incorrectly, you may be risking your health. Contact a licensed asbestos removalist.

If you contract an asbestos related disease, contact the Asbestos Disease Support Society on 1800 776 412.

Recently, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Ian McKewin from the CFMEU to find out his vast and very long experience with asbestos in the commercial arena.

Ian’s story:

Ian McKewin has been in the building industry since the age of 14, originally as an apprentice joiner. Back then he didn’t know what asbestos was or the dangers of it. He spent his days cutting fibro sheets with his workmates, without realising the deadly effect this could have on their health …. until much later.

From the age of 19 to the present day Ian has been working in the commercial building industry. He has worked on the $1.6 billion, 4 year Gold Coast University Hospital project. Ian is currently working on the Queens wharf redevelopment project. A long term member of the CFMEU, joining the Associated Society of Carpentry at 19, which is now part of CFMEU.

Many of his friends and work mates contracted asbestos related illness over the years having been exposed to asbestos and have become very ill. Some have sadly passed away from mesothelioma.

Ian’s father has asbestosis and along with Ian, has lost most of his lung capacity.

Asbestos awareness has come a long way since a young 14 year old and formal asbestos training is now provided by the CFMEU as part of EBAs.

Thady, Andrew and Ian from CMFEU | Turner Freeman Lawyers QLD
L to R: Andrew Suffern, Thady Blundell, Ian McKewin

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