Sunday, October 28, 2012

NSW asbestos fear sparks union work ban

THE electricity workers union has placed bans on working on electricity meters amid fears that meter boards in two million NSW homes could be harbouring asbestos.

A spokesman for the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) said it imposed the bans after Endeavour Energy, which covers western Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra, issued a warning to its staff not to work on or near potentially contaminated boards. The bans apply to homes built before 1983.

The energy company has also instructed workers to wear masks when working on meter boards in older houses until a review is complete. The ETU spokesman said the union does not believe "these flimsy little cotton masks" will do enough to protect workers. "We are banning our Endeavour Energy members from opening or working near any meter boards unless the company has provided documentary evidence that the board is asbestos free," the ETU said in a statement. "This is the first in a series of steps that the NSW ETU will be taking to stamp out asbestos exposure in our industry." The union also expressed concern that householders had not been notified of the risk.

In a hazard alert issued on October 25, Endeavour Energy said it understood "that the composition of meter boards installed prior to 1983 includes asbestos". However, the percentage of asbestos present in the boards was low, it added. Endeavour said it was reviewing the process of working with meter boards.
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