February 18, 2019

Planning underway for returning DL locomotives to service

KiwiRail is confident the level of risk from exposure to airborne asbestos in its DL locomotives is minimal, following completion of a second round of testing in New Zealand, the results of which were also validated by an internationally recognised occupational medicine expert. Just seven out of the 204 samples taken showed a very small presence of non-respirable asbestos in five operable locomotives. Testing confirmed no presence of any asbestos dust in the remaining 34 locomotives that are in the operating fleet.

Chief executive Peter Reidy says the results confirmed early advice that the asbestos presented a low risk and was well contained. Both the testing regimes and recommendations were being further validated, by Dr John Bisby of International Health consultants based in Victoria, Australia. While a final report is still underway, Mr Reidy says preliminary advice from Dr Bisby confirms that the probability for any exposure to airborne fibres was low and if any did arise they would be insignificant in relation to both New Zealand and International workplace exposure standards for respirable Chrysotile fibre.

“With the majority of the locomotives showing minimal risk for exposure to airborne fibre, we are confident that appropriate measures can be put in place that will enable us to progressively bring these locomotives back into service soon,” Mr Reidy says.

An operational plan, which includes a comprehensive set of risk management measures for safe operation, ongoing mitigation and eventual removal of all asbestos containing materials was being finalised in partnership with WorkSafe.

“We have repeatedly said no locomotive will operate until we are completely satisfied it poses no risk to our people. To that end we are working through a robust process with our expert advisors and WorkSafe to determine a safe re-entry into operation for the locomotives.”

Mr Reidy says the current lack of capacity is causing supply chain issues for many New Zealand industries and businesses. “The DL locomotives are the workhorse of our fleet and without their pulling power all customers are feeling the lack of capacity.

“Running a safe operation is very important to our business and our customers have understood the need for our focus to be on the welfare of our people. We are thankful for the group response by the wider transport industry to help manage this situation. “We want to reassure them we are doing everything we can so we safely get back to normal operation as soon as practicable.”

KiwiRail is meeting with union officials this week.

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Planning underway for returning DL locomotives to service

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