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December 16, 2017

Asbestos scandal: Telstra points at contractors

TELSTRA says its contractors should have complied with workplace safety laws, as the investigation continues into the improper handling and dumping of asbestos dug up during remediation of pits and ducts.

The telecommunications giant said it required its contractors to appropriately train and supervise workers and to conduct appropriate audits of their processes.

Earlier this week The Courier spoke with workers from Telstra sub-contractor Davcom who said they were told to use protective suits while digging up asbestos sparingly because of the cost.

They also told of using crowbars to break apart asbestos so it would fit into bags for disposal.

The Courier also revealed a skip bin full of asbestos bags which had been left behind a Sebastopol car yard for weeks by Davcom workers.

Telstra spokesman James Howe said the company had strict guidelines in place for asbestos removal which required contractors to wear appropriate protective clothing.

He said contractors must take appropriate safety measures consistent with Asbestos Management and Removal Codes of Practice.

“Fundamentally, the safe and proper handling of asbestos is an absolute and not-negotiable priority,” Mr Howe said.

Davcom operations manager Scott Davison yesterday said safety procedures were a high priority and that all Davcom contractors underwent safety inductions.

“In our industry it is imperative for organisations to adhere to industry-specific requirements which we adapted,” Mr Davison said.

Telstra contractor Visionstream, which sub-contracted Davcom to carry out work in the Ballarat area, says it takes the management of asbestos “very seriously”.

“We have specific requirements that our sub-contractors must follow, including training and compliance with regulations and we monitor this carefully,” said spokeswoman Louisa Graham.

There are around 1.5 million Telstra pits and ducts around the country, with about 20 per cent estimated to contain asbestos.

Telstra is remediating the pits and ducts to make way for fibre cabling as part of the National Broadband Network.

tom.cowie@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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Asbestos scandal: Telstra points at contractors

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