Bill's Media Releases

Safe Return to Work on Telecommunications Pits the Priority

Minister for Workplace Relations Bill Shorten said that it was agreed by all members of the independent Asbestos Taskforce that safe resumption of work on telecommunications pits was a key priority.

Telstra reported to the Taskforce yesterday that it would be seeking approval from its Board to resume work.

Comcare reported to the Taskforce that they are satisfied that appropriate actions are being taken by Telstra to address work health and safety for asbestos related hazards.

We look forward to that occurring as a matter of priority.

Work on telecommunication pits containing ACMs will only resume when training has been completed by employees and contractors.

Fourteen monitors are being recruited around Australia to report to the Taskforce.

The Taskforce also noted the strong response to advertisements for independent monitors.

They will be checking the safe removal and handling of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in telecommunication pits.

The monitors will be verifying that work on the NBN roll out that may involve ACMs is being conducted in a way that ensures the safety of employees, contractors, nearby residents and the general public.

The Taskforce was established by the Australian Government in June to monitor the ongoing activities of Telstra and NBN and prevent exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos is a cruel, indiscriminate killer and because of its widespread use over much of the 20th century, it remains a persistent threat to Australians.

The Government views the identification and safe removal of asbestos as an absolute priority.

The Taskforce has met on six occasions and is headed by Geoff Fary (Chair, Asbestos Management Review). Its membership includes representatives from Telstra, NBN Co., the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA), Comcare, industry unions, asbestos community support groups and work, health and safety experts.

The Government established the first National Asbestos Exposure Register in June. The register captures the details of members of the community who think they may have been exposed to ACMs.

The register is managed by ASEA and is available at www.asbestossafety.gov.au.

If residents or businesses wish to report suspected ACMs, please call the national work health and safety regulator, Comcare, on 1800 888 468.

MEDIA CONTACT: Andrew Porter 0419 474 392