UQ built Schonell using Asbestos

The Vice-Chancellor of UQ after Professor Deborah Terry has revealed that there is asbestos in the Schonell Theatre 50 years after its construction (see email below).

These results, however, are an indication that current measures to contain asbestos in the theatre’s roof are no longer completely effective. Given that the health and safety of our community is our number one priority, I felt an obligation to accept the advice to temporarily close the theatre to allow for immediate cleaning of impacted areas and a detailed evaluation to occur. I have also requested ongoing air quality monitoring.

Some questions

Where is the report completed by ‘independent experts’?
Why did the University allow asbestos to be used in the construction of the roof of the Schonell?
Why wasn’t the asbestos dust detected in Theatre 1 previously?
Why reveal the presence of asbestos dust at this particular point in time that the University wants to demolish the UQU complex including the Schonell?
What undertakings will the University give to patrons if they should contract asbestosis as a result of many hours spent watching films in the Schonell?

UQ’s Schonell Theatre

Following a briefing this afternoon about asbestos dust and electrical concerns in the Schonell Theatre, the decision has been made to temporarily close building 22, which includes the Schonell and Geoffrey Rush theatres, the Pizza Café and Chatime from 6pm today (Thursday 13 May).

This decision will be reviewed in approximately six weeks, after critical health and safety remediation works and inspections have been completed by independent experts – Environmental & Laboratory Solutions (ELS) and UGL.

While we monitor regularly the levels of asbestos present in the Schonell Theatre as part of an asbestos management program for the University, the trigger for this decision was the results received on Wednesday 12 May from ELS.

While the testing showed no evidence of asbestos in the air, it did show 17 positive results of asbestos dust on surfaces in Theatre 1. ELS has confirmed there is no health risk for those who occupy or who have visited the theatre recently.

These results, however, are an indication that current measures to contain asbestos in the theatre’s roof are no longer completely effective. Given that the health and safety of our community is our number one priority, I felt an obligation to accept the advice to temporarily close the theatre to allow for immediate cleaning of impacted areas and a detailed evaluation to occur. I have also requested ongoing air quality monitoring.

ELS has been commissioned to commence cleaning and UGL to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the theatre’s electrical infrastructure and advise on potential remediation efforts. This work will take approximately six weeks.

Following this comprehensive assessment, we expect to be able to make a decision on whether the theatre can reopen. It is our hope that businesses impacted by today’s decision will be able to reopen in the coming weeks after some initial works are completed.

The Schonell Theatre was built in 1970, during the peak period of asbestos use in construction in Australia. Over the years, patrons of the theatre, the student union and the University have supported works to encapsulate the asbestos.

Over time, further safety measures have required parts of the building to be closed off, making it difficult to complete essential electrical and fire equipment monitoring and maintenance.

The current presence of asbestos dust, combined with not being able to easily access electrical infrastructure, poses an unacceptable risk.

The University and the student union will be working with those impacted by the temporary closure – businesses, users of the theatres and the upcoming 50th anniversary celebrations – to make alternative arrangements.

I understand this news has come very suddenly, and just as we are commencing consultation on a new student complex, which will include a new theatre.

I hope you understand that our priority is to provide a safe and healthy environment for our staff and students, and those who come to our campus – and this is something we cannot compromise on.

We will continue to keep staff and students updated in the coming weeks.

Best wishes
Debbie

Professor Deborah Terry AO
Vice-Chancellor and President
The University of Queensland
T +61 7 3365 1300
E vc@uq.edu.au W uq.edu.au

Comments are closed.