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Asbestos in customer premises - are you at risk?

The recent Mr Fluffy saga in the ACT region revealed that dangerous asbestos fibre insulation was sprayed directly into the ceiling spaces and the wall cavities of private homes and some businesses.

It is now becoming clear that many homes throughout country NSW, especially in the southern and western regions, may also have had the banned insulation used in their buildings.

Asbestos is a known killer and is currently banned for public use but it was extensively used in many buildings throughout Australia for decades as loose fill insulation and as fibre board (fibro). It is also found in everyday items like floor tiles and carpet underlay.

The extension of the Mr Fluffy warnings beyond Canberra and into country NSW is alarming for residents of these homes.

But it also highlights the likelihood that many dozens and perhaps hundreds of communications technicians were also and indeed still are at risk by having entered these spaces to run cable or drill into these walls to fix sockets and equipment.    

Prior to the deregulation of the communications cabling market the vast majority of these workers would have been Telstra employees but the danger still exists for all customer premises workers today, including Telstra CTs, who are out there installing phone lines, ADSL type services or NBN-ready gear into private homes and business premises.

Action required…

All communications techs, past and present, who believe they may have inadvertently been exposed to asbestos fibres in the course of their work should immediately take steps to have that possible contact recorded.  

This should be done by first raising an incident notification with your employer and have them register it but also make sure you cc your union branch who will also log it.   It is also advisable to register your exposure with the Federal government’s ASEA (Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency).    All correspondence regarding this needs to be done in writing or in ASEA’s case by filling in the on-line survey stating where at work you may have been exposed.   

Do it now!

Because the lag time between exposure to the fibre and any resulting ill health can be up to 10 or even 20 years later it is vital that the correct records are created now so that if by chance you or your family need to lodge a claim for compensation in the future you have evidence to support it.  

If you suspect you may have been exposed but it was years ago it is still important to do it now.   Your union can offer advice if you are unsure what information is relevant.

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