Telstra to give contractors more than 'basic' asbestos training

In the wake of community concern over subcontractors handling asbestos in Telstra pits, the company has found that contractors were given only basic asbestos awareness and competency training.

A preliminary review conducted by Telstra, in reaction to community concern over how contractors were handling asbestos found in Telstra pits and ducts that were being remediated for the National Broadband Network (NBN), has found that contractors were given only basic asbestos awareness and competency training.

The company announced today that each of its contractors had areas for improvement in managing subcontractors in handling asbestos, and the improvements will need to be made before those contractors return to working on pit remediation to prepare it for NBN infrastructure.

The company found that there were "gaps" in training records for subcontractors for asbestos awareness, and Telstra will now implement mandatory standards for training contractors. The telco said it is consulting with the unions and Comcare on the proposed training, and will get an independent review of the training content.

Anyone working in Telstra remediation will be required to undertake retraining before recommencing work, Telstra's chief operating officer Brendon Riley said.

Telstra is bolstering field supervision, with 200 additional staff members to oversee remediation work, and the company will also ensure that field teams have the required documentation and supplies for dealing with asbestos, including signage, barricades, suits, masks, ground cover, removal bags, water supplies, and recording equipment.

Riley said that Telstra will continue to be transparent on asbestos-related issues as the review continues.

"We will continue to be open about the status of these issues and the work we are doing to strengthen contractor management of asbestos handling," he said. "We will not allow recommencement of cement pit remediation work until we are satisfied the necessary safety measures are in place."