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.