Monthly News Roundup: July 2014
Another month has passed with serious asbestos revelations making headlines around the world. Staying up-to-date with asbestos-related news is an important consideration for any employer, as it helps increase awareness of the potential risks you and your employees could be facing.
With this in mind, here are four of the top asbestos-related revelations that dominated the news channels around the world in July.
Telstra terminates NBN asbestos subcontractors
Health and safety has become one of the defining features in the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN). With various risks and hazards present across the process, companies working on this vital project are encouraged to boost safety wherever possible.
This focus has led to a number of important policies, such as the introduction of mandatory NBN safety and awareness training for individuals working in particular roles.
Recently, major NBN employer Telstra has revoked accreditation of a number of subcontractors and individual workers, according to a July 28 article from The Australian.
"This decision was made after audits showed they were not meeting safety standards we expect for this type of work. These accreditation breaches were not limited to asbestos work, but included other issues such as traffic and pedestrian management," Telstra spokesperson Nicole McKechnie explained.
Last year, the rollout was delayed due to a series of asbestos scares, demonstrating the need for NBN individuals to undertake comprehensive asbestos awareness training.
More schools closed due to asbestos scares
Asbestos exposure is a serious hazard for many workers in Australia. Unfortunately, this risk can also affect people unrelated to their occupation – such as homeowners performing renovations.
Another major asbestos hazard is the historical use of the material in schools built across the country. This means that a significant number of children could be exposed at any time.
It seems that not a month can pass without another school being closed due to asbestos discoveries – and July was no different. In particular, Willetton Senior High School in Western Australia was closed down on July 22 in response to suspected asbestos.
"We've known Willetton is an old school and has been scheduled for major work as part of the rebuilding program," David Axworthy, a spokesperson from the Education Department told ABC Australia.
"The buildings that are to be demolished later in the year are routinely monitored and checked so during that routine inspection they found some broken ceiling tiles and other residue … that contained asbestos."
There are many schools facing potential asbestos risks, according to a 2013 government report, with several institutions in WA listed as needing immediate attention.
New threat in Gaza war
Residents in Gaza are not only facing the persistent threat of mortar shells and rockets. The war-ravaged southern communities are now being exposed to a secondary danger – asbestos.
A recent media report has picked up on the increased risk of asbestos inhalation, due to structures and buildings being destroyed in the fight.
Fortunately, the local councils are working hard to replace any asbestos roofs that may be in the line of fire. However, as shells continue to drop across the communities, the threat is becoming increasingly urgent.
"The problem is mainly with front-line communities, which are most vulnerable to rocket and mortar fire," Council Head Haim Yalin said, according to Middle Eastern news publication Haartz.
"Warehouses and other buildings also have asbestos roofs, but our first priority is to replace the roofs of residential structures."
Mr Yalin revealed that there are around 700 residences with asbestos roofs located along the Gazan perimeter. This means that any initiative to replace the dangerous materials will be a lengthy and consuming endeavour.
Former BHP worker wins asbestos damages case
A landmark case concluded in New South Wales last month, with a former BHP worker awarded more than $2 million in damages.
The ex-employee claimed that he was exposed to asbestos in the early 1980s due to negligence from his employer. The plaintiff is now suffering from terminal mesothelioma as a consequence of inhaling the fibres.
On July 31, the Dust and Diseases Tribunal found BHP guilty of negligence related to work health and safety standards. The Court then decided BHP would have to pay the worker $2.2 million in compensation.
"While today's verdict is a significant victory for Mr Dunning and his family, it does not take away from the fact that he is dealing with an incurable, terminal disease as a result of BHP's negligence," Joanne Wade, asbestos lawyer with Slater & Gordon expressed.
"We are extremely pleased that Mr Dunning can now move on and concentrate on spending his remaining time with his loved ones."
For more information on asbestos in Australia, check out our news feed. Get in touch with the AlertForce team to access a range of vital asbestos training programs.
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