Businesses neighbouring the drug lab uncovered last week in Hume have been locked out of their premises as WorkSafe investigates the safety of the building where 2.5 tonnes of industrial chemicals were uncovered.
One business owner, who did not wish to be named, said it had been business as usual until Friday, when the police handed the scene over to WorkSafe and officials promptly locked them out.
“If it was that dangerous why wouldn’t something be done before? Why did it take until Friday?” the business owner asked.
“Surely if it was that dangerous, one, we should have been told; two, couldn’t they [the police] have controlled that site better? And, if there is a danger to any of my people, why has it taken them a week to tell us?”
Signs on the surrounding businesses in the Sheppard Street site indicate WorkSafe will not allow the businesses – many of them base offices for trades - back into their premises until August 25.
The signs list methanol, acetone, sulphuric acid and methylene chloride as some of the dangerous substances found on the premises, preventing the other businesses from returning, potentially leaving them in a bind.
“We weren’t even allowed to take a computer out of there - they’ve said lock the doors," the business owner said.
"We said we need our tools. Nup.
"We need our computers. Nup.
“If they said, 'Listen, you’ve got to move out, we’ll do some swabs, get that done and then you can go in and get this, this and this, go and set up somewhere for three or four weeks while we get all the people tested,' but no ... it’s just lock the door.”
The owner has not received any answers from WorkSafe on when the tests are going to be done or how long it’s going to take.
“This isn’t really good enough,” he said, noting he will have to hire tools and equipment needed to complete jobs lined up, but has no way of paying wages and doing his accounting.
“It’s frustrating because we’re not getting answers. I want tests done and I understand where they’re coming from and the safety of my employees is my most important thing, but in saying that if they’d give me answers and say, 'Righto, let’s get the tests done, it’s going to relieve that [frustration]'.”
WorkSafe Commissioner Mark McCabe said the prohibition notices "are to ensure that a full assessment of any possible remaining contamination of otherthe site is conducted before the building is reoccupied for ongoing business”
He said supervised collection of belongings "is not uncommon" and could be negotiated with Worksafe inspectors.