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AWU seeks answers from Alcoa over plans to stop issuing PPE

April 22, 2020

The AWU is seeking urgent answers from Alcoa over its plans to stop issuing essential personal protective equipment.

As of Friday 24 April, the Racal 3M Airstream helmet is being discontinued by the manufacturing, and the AWU says Alcoa has failed to put a plan in place that ensures member safety will not be compromised at its aluminium smelter in Portland, Victoria.

The AWU has written a letter to Alcoa seeking urgent answers over its stockpile of this essential piece of equipment, which has played a critical health and safety role for over three decades by protecting members from a myriad of airborne contaminants.

Union officials are seeking information as to how many 3M helmets are in stock, when they will run out, what alternatives are being considered and most importantly, how Alcoa plans to test out the alternatives on offer.

Union representatives at Alcoa’s Portland site are pushing ahead with finding alternatives to ensure there is no gap in provision, but the AWU says the responsibility for delivering member safety lies with Alcoa and it needs to step up urgently.

The AWU understands that other smelters around the country that rely on the same 3M helmet have taken steps to stockpile and preorder the equipment before the discontinuation of production.

AWU Assistant National Secretary and National Aluminium Organiser, Misha Zelinsky said that it was important that Alcoa responded urgently to this inquiry.

“Worker health and safety will always be a key priority for the AWU and nowhere is this more important than in the provision of the best possible personal protective gear.

“Alcoa should not have left this to the last minute, and should have adequate replacements already locked in. We need Alcoa to undertake rigorous trials to ensure any alternative does the same, or a better job, than the 3M helmet which is being discontinued.

AWU Victorian Branch Secretary said that Alcoa’s actions to date flew in the face of efforts to respond to the safety challenges relating to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis with already heightened fear over staying safe in the workplace and it’s vital Alcoa provides assurances for our members as soon as possible. AWU members want to know they’ll be safe at work, pure and simple.”

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