February 18, 2019

Asbestos concerns remain for rail workers – RMTU

The Rail and Maritime Transport Union says some KiwiRail locomotives have tested positive for loose asbestos fibres and that a plan to return the locomotives to service is premature.

KiwiRail and union officials are meeting in Auckland today and tomorrow to discuss the results of a second round of testing for asbestos in 40 DL locomotives.

The union remains concerned at the reintroduction of the locomotives, and had hoped to clarify a number of these concerns at the meeting, but was disappointed to see the meeting pre-empted by an announcement from KiwiRail last night, Rail & Maritime Transport Union General Secretary Wayne Butson said.

“One of the locomotives returned a positive result for loose asbestos fibres. The presence of loose fibres is of huge concern to us, as it is loose fibres that have the potential to be respirable.

“The first round of test results turned up negative for airborne asbestos fibres or asbestos dust. Now, the second ones are showing presence of asbestos in some locomotives. We need to see a comparison between the first and second round of testing for each locomotive, in order to understand why some have gone from negative to positive.”

“We also need to know at what point the asbestos in the locomotives becomes prone to releasing respirable fibres. Testing for this must be done proactively, rather than reactive testing that identifies a danger after our members have already operated or repaired the locomotives.”

“KiwiRail’s statement yesterday was presumptive as we are meeting with the company today and Wednesday to discuss whether or not the locomotives will be returned to service and operated by our members,” Wayne Butson said.

Link to article:

Asbestos concerns remain for rail workers – RMTU

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.

Link – 

Planning underway for returning DL locomotives to service