Albemarle Bunbury lithium plant receives notice of improvement over health and safety issues

Western Australia’s workplace safety watchdog has taken enforcement action against a majority US-owned lithium facility in the south west of the state.

The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) said it had issued Albemarle an improvement notice over safety concerns at a lithium facility in Kemerton, about 150 kilometers away. south of Perth.

The warning requires Albemarle to install barriers that will ensure the safety of workers carrying out work adjacent to the plant being commissioned.

The facility is operated and constructed simultaneously.

It follows a workplace safety investigation that was launched in early April following multiple complaints from workers and union officials.

Albemarle did not respond to questions before publication, but has previously told the ABC that security is the company’s top priority.

The refinery is being operated and constructed simultaneously and is nearing completion.(Provided: Albemarle)

Previously Raised Security Issues

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union of WA (AMWU WA) has previously raised safety concerns about the facility, describing it as a “21st century facility with a 19th century workplace safety culture”.

A white construction sign outside Albemarle's Kemerton lithium hydroxide plant.
The union raised several safety issues.(ABC Southwest: Jacqueline Lynch)

AMWU WA said several workers were hospitalized as a precaution in early April following exposure to toxic gases that escaped through a vent.

Union Secretary of State Steve McCartney said previous problems in the workplace included chemical showers that didn’t work and aluminum scaffolding stored next to a corrosive substance.

He said a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility in January was handled with poor communication.

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