Addressing asbestos risks in the rollout of the NBN
How Comcare is responding to reports of asbestos in Telstra communication pits.
In response to reports of inappropriate handling of asbestos in telecommunication pits being accessed as part of National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout, Comcare is working with Telstra, NBN Co and VisionStream — entities covered by the Comcare scheme and involved in the rollout of the NBN — to ensure that they and their subcontractors have adequate systems and training in place to address asbestos risks.
The government has established the National Asbestos Taskforce to monitor the ongoing activities, including comprehensive training and supervision of employees and contractors. The taskforce comprises representatives from the Telstra, NBN Co., the Office of Asbestos Safety, Comcare, unions, asbestos support groups, and health and safety experts.
Comcare’s immediate response to the asbestos risks identified in the rollout of the NBN has involved:
- establishing a dedicated asbestos hotline to respond to community concerns and provide for the reporting of incidents
- working with state and territory work health and safety regulators to coordinate cross jurisdictional responsibilities as they relate to the remediation of Telstra pits and the NBN rollout
- inspecting the safety of pit remediation works, and
- responding to reports from workers, residents and others about suspected asbestos containing material.
Comcare will consider enforcement options under its Regulation Policy where a breach of the law is identified. Minister Shorten also recently announced the establishment of a national asbestos exposure register.