The Mining Industry
The first group of workers to be heavily exposed to the danger were asbestos mine, mill, and transport workers who handled raw asbestos fibre in its passage from mine and mill to manufacturing plant.
Asbestos mine and mill workers at Wittenoom in Western Australia and at Baryulgil and later Woodsreef in New South Wales experienced continuous, heavy exposure. So too did wharf workers who handled the bags of fibre which were either imported or shipped around Australia through all the major ports. Whenever they were moved, dust containing asbestos fibres rose from the hessian or jute bags.
This group of workers experienced the first wave of asbestos-related disease, first asbestosis and then rising levels of lung cancer and mesothelioma, the deadly cancers with the longer latency periods.
From 1956 to 1961 Ted Grant spent his school summer holidays working at Point Samson loading asbestos from Wittenoom onto the ships for export. Here he describes what the conditions were like.