Telstra has announced that it will implement a range of measures to ensure safe workplace practices as it continues to audit asbestos management at NBN installation sites.
The company's chief operations officer Brendon Riley released a statement today (May 30), saying that Telstra is "deeply concerned" by the possibility that asbestos materials may been handled in a less-than-safe fashion by contractors working on its behalf.
As a result, the telco will convene a new 200-strong workforce of specialist inspectors to oversee all asbestos remediation work at its sites around the country.
In addition, it says it will work to improve the training program that all Telstra contractors are currently required to participate in before working in Telstra pits.
"These are strong actions reflecting our absolute priority on the safety of our workers, our contractors and the community," said Mr Riley.
"This is our responsibility so we will take direct control of all asbestos related activity performed by our contractors.
Mr Riley said that Telstra will work with authorities, unions and other stakeholders to ensure that all laws and codes of practice are complied with.
Meanwhile, the union that represents technicians working on the NBN has called on Telstra to plan support for future victims of asbestos-related diseases contracted on their sites.
"The impacts of this mess will be felt decades into the future – Telstra needs to take responsibility for the health impact on its own workers as well as the broader community," said CEPU NSW assistant secretary Shane Murphy in a May 30 statement.
Mr Murphy said that Telstra needs to establish a fund to cover the medical expenses of any individuals affected by asbestos dust or fibre from one of its pits.
The telecommunications company started auditing contractor work practices last week following reported incidents where asbestos materials had not been properly handled.
Minister for employment and workplace relations Bill Shorten released a statement yesterday (May 29) saying that Comcare is currently investigating Telstra's workplace safety systems and those of its contractors in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania.
"The Office of Asbestos Safety will work closely with Comcare to address any asbestos hazards in a nationally coordinated way, to protect Australians from asbestos exposure," said Mr Shorten.
Any exposure to asbestos fibre or dust can lead to serious conditions such as Asbestosis, Mesothelioma or lung cancer.
Anyone suffering from a dust-related condition can discuss potential Asbestosis claims and their entitlement to compensation for medical expenses and more with compensation lawyers in Sydney.