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June 23, 2018

Asbestos anxiety as girl tumbles into Telstra pit

CAUSE FOR CONCERN: Still horrified by the potential discovery of asbestos in a Telstra pit across the road from their house in Sisters Beach are Jarrod Woodland and Melanie Strempel with Angela, 5, and Levi Strempel, 7. Picture: Meg Windram.

CAUSE FOR CONCERN: Still horrified by the potential discovery of asbestos in a Telstra pit across the road from their house in Sisters Beach are Jarrod Woodland and Melanie Strempel with Angela, 5, and Levi Strempel, 7. Picture: Meg Windram.

A SISTERS Beach mother-of-two got the shock of her life after her daughter partially fell into a Telstra services pit last week.

Melanie Strempel’s daughter suffered minor cuts and abrasions, however it was what she found at the bottom of the pit that was the cause for concern.

After running out to see if her daughter was alright, Miss Strempel noticed broken pieces of cement sheeting at the bottom of the pit.

Miss Strempel and her partner believe it’s asbestos.

“We were observing my daughter out the window of our house playing over the road,” Miss Strempel said.

“The pit is on a hump on the grass and a lot of children play in that area, riding their bikes.

“My partner noticed my daughter go over the hump on her bike when the lid flipped up and she fell into it.

“When we went over to see if she was alright in the bottom of the pit we noticed all the broken bits of asbestos, the pit had deteriorated on the inside.”

Miss Strempel lost her grandfather to an asbestos-related disease and the incident during the week brought back memories.

She was straight on the phone to Telstra to report the incident.

“When I spoke to Telstra they said someone would come out to fix the problem.

“Three days later a technician turned up only to put a plastic sheet over it and a yellow cage.”

Telstra were contacted for comment.

The company does have an asbestos procedure listed on its website.

This comes after crews fitting out pits for the National Broadband Network found asbestos.

More information can be found on the website at www.telstra.com.au/aboutus/media/emergencies-incidents/asbestos/.

Original article:

Asbestos anxiety as girl tumbles into Telstra pit

Asbestos still 'ticking bomb'

NBN workers.

NBN workers.

AS copper services wind down in parts of the Kiama area, the union representing National Broadband Network technicians is calling for the rejection of the Commission of Audit’s recommendation to axe the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency.

CEPU NSW assistant secretary Shane Murphy said asbestos had a long and damaging history in Australia, and the recent rollout of the NBN had once again resulted in asbestos exposure affecting workers and residents.

He said the abolition of the only federal government body addressing asbestos safety will risk deadly exposure for workers and the community.

“The CEPU NSW is joining asbestos support groups, lawyers, concerned community members and other unions in urging/demanding the federal government to guarantee long-term funding for the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency,” Mr Murphy said.

“It is vital for a co-ordinated, whole-of-government approach to maintain safeguards for workers and the community.

“Only last year, all work was temporarily stopped in pits and pipelines for the NBN when contractors disturbed asbestos while laying cable in western Sydney.

“This illustrates the ticking time bomb of asbestos out in the community, the continued danger it poses and the very real need for the safety agency.

“The independent safety agency is responsible for implementing a national action plan on asbestos safety and eradication, and was tasked with creating and maintaining Australia’s first National Asbestos Exposure Register.

“The future of these two important safeguards is under threat if the agency is abolished.”

May 23 marked a milestone for the NBN, as copper services begin winding down in parts of the Kiama area.

The NBN has begun replacing most existing landline home and business phones, ADSL internet and Telstra cable internet services in those parts of Kiama, which were scheduled to be officially switched off from May 23.

An NBN Co spokesperson said ensuring the safety of communities and people working on the NBN was “the most important job we have”.

“Every employee of NBN Co has a responsibility to drive the highest standards of safety.”

Link: 

Asbestos still 'ticking bomb'

Asbestos found at Telstra work site north of Brisbane, union raises concerns

A union says it has grave concerns about work done by a Telstra contractor to the north of Brisbane, after finding asbestos near a recently replaced telecommunications pit.Telstra’s infrastructure is being used to roll out the National Broadband Network (NBN), including old pits containing asbestos.Coutts Contracting, which is under investigation, was responsible for replacing dozens of pits in Caboolture and Morayfield between August 2011 and October 2012.A piece of asbestos was found near a replaced pit in the front yard of a house in Caboolture River Road at Morayfield.Phil Hughes from the Communication Workers Union says nobody knows how long it has been there.”It’s very dangerous because it’s dry and the sun breaks it down,” he said.”If you look really closely, you can actually see the fibres.”He says dangerous pieces of asbestos were left in the ground and covered with a thin layer of land fill.”The contaminated soil would actually be under probably an inch or so of crusher dust; decomposed granite,” he said.”So underneath that would be all your contaminated soil from the old asbestos pit with chunks…

that would eventually work their way to the surface of the ground.”How many school kids walk past here every day; walking right past that lethal piece of asbestos?”Families live in street where asbestos was foundResident Alex Chivers says he is shocked at the discovery.”There’s a family over the road with three kids and there’s a whole group of kids moved into the units over the back there, plus my grandchildren turn up here all the time so I wouldn’t be real happy about them running around knowing there’s asbestos in the air,” he said.A Telstra spokesman says the company is awaiting the outcome of an investigation by Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.”If there is any indication that contractors have failed to use appropriate procedures for the safe handling and disposal of potentially asbestos-containing material then we will take immediate action,” he said.Coutts Contracting denies the claims and has refused to comment.Comcare, the federal department responsible for investigating such claims, released a statement after sending workers to investigate.”In its investigations, Comcare has not uncovered evidence of exposure to workers or the community, or breaches of the WHS Act.”Comcare has received another 66 different complaints from around the country this year but, after investigations, found no breaches at any of those sites.

Link to article – 

Asbestos found at Telstra work site north of Brisbane, union raises concerns

Asbestos found at Telstra work site in north Brisbane, union raises concerns

The CWU says pieces of asbestos were left in the ground and covered with a thin layer of land fill.
ABC The CWU says pieces of asbestos were left in the ground and covered with a thin layer of land fill.

A union says it has grave concerns about work done by a Telstra contractor to the north of Brisbane, after finding asbestos near a recently replaced telecommunications pit.

Telstra’s infrastructure is being used to roll out the National Broadband Network (NBN), including old pits containing asbestos.

Coutts Contracting, which is under investigation, was responsible for replacing dozens of pits in Caboolture and Morayfield between August 2011 and October 2012.

A piece of asbestos was found near a replaced pit in the front yard of a house in Caboolture River Road at Morayfield.

Phil Hughes from the Communication Workers Union says nobody knows how long it has been there.

“It’s very dangerous because it’s dry and the sun breaks it down,” he said.

“If you look really closely, you can actually see the fibres.”

He says dangerous pieces of asbestos were left in the ground and covered with a thin layer of land fill.

“The contaminated soil would actually be under probably an inch or so of crusher dust; decomposed granite,” he said.

“So underneath that would be all your contaminated soil from the old asbestos pit with chunks… that would eventually work their way to the surface of the ground.

“How many school kids walk past here every day; walking right past that lethal piece of asbestos?”

Families live in street where asbestos was found

Resident Alex Chivers says he is shocked at the discovery.

“There’s a family over the road with three kids and there’s a whole group of kids moved into the units over the back there, plus my grandchildren turn up here all the time so I wouldn’t be real happy about them running around knowing there’s asbestos in the air,” he said.

A Telstra spokesman says the company is awaiting the outcome of an investigation by Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

“If there is any indication that contractors have failed to use appropriate procedures for the safe handling and disposal of potentially asbestos-containing material then we will take immediate action,” he said.

Coutts Contracting denies the claims and has refused to comment.

Comcare, the federal department responsible for investigating such claims, released a statement after sending workers to investigate.

“In its investigations, Comcare has not uncovered evidence of exposure to workers or the community, or breaches of the WHS Act.”

Comcare has received another 66 different complaints from around the country this year but, after investigations, found no breaches at any of those sites.

Link to article: 

Asbestos found at Telstra work site in north Brisbane, union raises concerns

Telstra resumes work after asbestos scare

Telstra is resuming work in some NSW telecommunication pits after an asbestos scare at National Broadband Network (NBN) sites halted all operations last month.

In a statement on Thursday, Telstra said it would resume the “replacement and repair of telecommunication pits associated with the provision of essential services”.

The work will be limited to restoration and repair work associated with incidents such as cable-cuts leading to outages and loss of basic services, Telstra said.

It will be conducted by licenced removalists.

A spokeswoman said the work was not taking place in asbestos-contaminated NBN pits.

She could not confirm how sites would be subject to repair work.

“It’s only a handful – a very small number (of pits) in NSW,” the spokeswoman told AAP.

“We’re not resuming NBN work today. This is very limited, essential emergency work.”

Remediation work on Telstra’s NBN sites was halted in May when it was found many were contaminated with asbestos that had not been handled properly.

“This is the first time we’ve started to do anything since we announced the stoppage of all work at the end of May,” said the spokeswoman.

Telstra contractors are still undergoing retraining for asbestos management.

Comment was being sought from the national workplace safety authority Comcare.

Continued here – 

Telstra resumes work after asbestos scare

Telstra contractors untrained in asbestos

Some Telstra contractors have been found to have participated only in basic asbestos awareness and competency training, the telco says.

Telstra on Wednesday announced a number of new requirements for its three key National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout contractors in relation to asbestos handling for pit remediation.

Telstra’s preliminary review uncovered incidents of possible non-compliance with asbestos handling guidelines by its contractors.

Telstra has told its contractors that they must make improvements before returning to work, and warned that if they do not comply their contract will be terminated.

“We will not allow recommencement of cement pit remediation work until we are satisfied the necessary safety measures are in place,” Telstra’s Chief Operations Officer Brendon Riley said in a statement.

Asbestos was found at a Telstra pit in Penrith in May as part of the NBN rollout, and more problems have been discovered at telecommunications works in Ballarat, Perth, Adelaide, Tasmania and Queensland.

Unions called for work on the NBN roll-out to stop until Telstra and NBNCo could meet demands on workplace safety.

Telstra said contractors will have to increase supervision of sub-contractors, see that all staff complete mandatory training in asbestos management, and ensure all field staff carry adequate supplies for safe asbestos handling.

Telstra is reviewing each contractor’s sub-contractor supply chain to ensure safety arrangements are clear.

Mr Riley said the number of inspectors and quality specialists would near 200 as NBN volumes increase.

“These specialists will be critical in inspecting and supervising asbestos-related remediation work by contractors and their sub-contractors,” he said.

The majority of asbestos pit remediation and handling is being undertaken as a result of the NBN project, and Telstra said it was working with NBNCo to better engage the community.

This includes advising affected residents about the scheduling of activity, disclosing locations, maintaining transparency on procedures and clear lines of communication to handle public issues.

Telstra has established a hotline for any resident concerned about work in their area.

The number is 1800 067 225.

More: 

Telstra contractors untrained in asbestos

Union's asbestos warning

A register of Telstra pits where asbestos may be found is to be set up by the Queensland branch of the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union.

It follows unconfirmed reports workers have been exposed to asbestos at a new site in Cairns and the incident is now being investigated by the Electrical Trades Union.

The federal government is taking steps to set up a government taskforce to investigate claims workers are being exposed to asbestos exposure while installing NBN cables in Telstra cable pits.

On Tuesday three Queensland National Broadband Network work sites – at Banyo, Carseldine and Mackay – were identified as potential problem sites for asbestos exposure.

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CEPU Queensland spokesman Phil Hughes said on Wednesday the union had decided to set up the Queensland register after hearing the ETU was investigating the newest claim in Cairns.

“There were some young contractors in Cairns and they were in a pit cutting asbestos pipes and they were all covered in dust,” Mr Hughes said.

“So I’m getting some more information on that,” he said.

Mr Hughes said he had spoken with New South Wales CEPU officials after asbestos was discovered at a Penrith NBN worksite and the issue came to light.

He said only older Telstra pits were potential problems, because old fibro sheeting used in older pits had been progressively replaced by concrete and then poly/plastic sheets.

“It is only when the older pits are removed from the ground and they are broken up that we get dust,” he said.

“It is only when the pits are being broken out, or being worked on – or a new one is going in – that we have the issues,” he said.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie’s office said it had not been informed of any additional problem sites, other than the three it was notified of early this week.

“It is still just the three of them that we notified earlier this week; Banyo Carseldine and Mackay,” a staff officer said.

The man said he had not heard of a problem in Cairns, but said another allegation in Bundaberg was not asbestos.

Link – 

Union's asbestos warning

Asbestos threat from NBN rollout overstated according to public health expert

A public health expert has downplayed fears that work on telecommunication pits could lead to harmful asbestos exposure among nearby residents.

Several sites in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia have been shut down because asbestos was disturbed during excavation works for the roll out of the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Authorities are investigating safety breaches and some concerned residents in the Sydney suburb of Penrith evacuated their homes.

But Professor Bruce Armstrong, who has been researching asbestos-related diseases for decades, says there is next to no danger for residents near the affected sites.

He says asbestos fibres are less dangerous when they are bound up in concrete sheeting.

“Provided it remains bound in the asbestos cement form, then the risk from it is negligible,” he said.

“The hazard…

would have been to the workers knocking the asbestos around and not to people living nearby.”

Professor Armstrong says the public lacks education about the dangers of asbestos.

“We’ve seen the difficulties that many men have experienced – Bernie Banton and others – and I think the community has not either been educated to or perhaps caught the difference between the circumstances in which those men were exposed and the circumstances around asbestos cement sheeting,” he said.

“I think that people are starting to attach to being even close to asbestos cement sheeting the same kind of hazard as men experienced in Hardie…

and this is just not the case.”

Message not welcomed by victim support groups

Asbestos victims groups say Professor Armstrong’s commentary is not helpful.

Asbestos Diseases Foundation president Barry Robson says research shows it only takes one fibre to lodge in the chest to cause disease.

“Some experts say you need a lot of exposure, other experts say you only need the one,” he said.

“We at the Asbestos Diseases Foundation, and I can say this on behalf of the other nine groups here in Australia, there is no safe level and one fibre can do the damage.”

Both men agree that politics should be kept away from the debate.

“The politicians are also beating this up,” Professor Armstrong said.

“They too are tending to portray it in a very negative light, that this is a major problem.

“Obviously the Opposition in trying to make it look as black as possible.”

Mr Robson says MPs will be judged harshly if the political debate continues throughout the NBN rollout.

“These young families are going to have this worry for 30, 40 years hanging over their heads,” he said.

Both men also say Telstra could allay community fears by talking directly to affected residents.

View post:

Asbestos threat from NBN rollout overstated according to public health expert

Telstra hires 200 specialists for asbestos inspections, takes responsibility for clean-up

Telstra is hiring an extra 200 safety specialists to inspect all asbestos-related work at sites where the National Broadband Network (NBN) is to be rolled out.

Several sites in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia have been shut down and some residents have been moved from their homes over concerns about asbestos exposure.

Telstra’s chief operations officer Brendon Riley says an audit of all the underground pits will be finished by tomorrow.

As part of the NBN rollout, Telstra is required to repair and modernise the telecommunications pits around the country.

While Telstra has strict guidelines concerning asbestos management and removal, it has outsourced the job in Penrith to sub-contractors Service Stream.

There have been similar breaches at NBN sites in Ballarat, Victoria and Mandura, a suburb of Perth, Western Australia.

But Mr Riley says the asbestos at those two sites has already been removed.

Mr Riley says Telstra takes full responsibility for the clean-up.

“We are going to be taking responsibility for all field supervision of asbestos-related remediation.

We’re going to take on responsibility for all of the training in terms of asbestos handling for ourselves and our contractors…

we already do it for ourselves,” he said.

Federal workplace safety regulators have shut down work on parts of the NBN while they investigate the asbestos safety breaches.

“One situation like this is one too many and I think we saw a lot of strong feedback from the community, particularly in Penrith,” Mr Riley said.

“Asbestos is a serious issue, not just for us but as a national issue, and we thought it was time to take some steps and that’s what we announced today.”

The Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union wants Telstra to set up a James Hardie-type fund for workers who suffer from asbestos-related diseases in the future.

NSW Assistant Secretary Shane Murphy says Telstra is to blame for subcontracting the work to companies who failed to properly train their workers to handle the toxic material.

“Some years ago, when Telstra used to manage this work and do these work functions in-house, its workers were put through proper safety and training courses in relation to handling asbestos,” he said.

“What’s now happening is – and for some time – Telstra has outsourced those responsibilities to the contractors, who then outsource it to other contractors down the food chain.

“And again, it’s as simple as we’ve got the processes and policies in place, but there’s actually no real training going on other than people signing off and saying ‘I’ve worked with asbestos or been trained in its safe handling’.”

Link:  

Telstra hires 200 specialists for asbestos inspections, takes responsibility for clean-up