Asbestos found in museum engine

Specialist in protective gear work on the Otago Settlers Museum engine Josephine.
Specialist in protective gear work on the Otago Settlers Museum engine Josephine.

Staff cleaning vintage steam engine Josephine were never at risk from asbestos found in the locomotive's hulk, Toitu Otago Settlers Museum director Linda Wigley says.

Ms Wigley said museum management followed strict procedures. Decontamination had immediately been carried out, eliminating risk.

Dunedin community newspaper D Scene was told this week staff discovered the asbestos while cleaning the engine in readiness for display.

The handling of the problem was delayed, sources told the newspaper.

A large warning sign and emergency tape surrounded Josephine as specialists in protective clothing and masks worked on the engine in the museum's new foyer on Friday last week.

D Scene has been told the workers were applying polyurethane, despite the signage which indicated they were removing asbestos. D Scene photographed the scene minutes before a media gathering to witness the official handover of the almost-complete $40 million museum redevelopment project to Ms Wigley.

This week, Ms Wigley confirmed collections staff cleaning the engine discovered the asbestos.

She could not recall how long ago. However, she expressed 100 per cent confidence in the way the highly hazardous substance was handled, and said there was no delay in dealing with it.

Correct protocols were followed in consultation with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which incorporates the former Department of Labour. Staff were not asked to continue working on the engine after the asbestos was found, as far as she was aware.

Exposure to asbestos can lead to lung cancer.

Dunedin City Council issued a statement offering reassurance all was well with Josephine and that there was no risk to museum visitors from asbestos.

The Southland Times