Energy Minister Chris Hartcher agreed to the audit after a “productive meeting” with the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and representatives of power providers Endeavour Energy, Ausgrid and Essential Energy.
“The government is keen to ensure that asbestos management, removal and training plans are adequate to ensure worker and community protection,” Mr Hartcher said in a statement.However, he said the issue might need a national approach.
During the meeting, the union demanded asbestos removal across the industry after raising concerns about its workers being at risk of asbestos exposure.It followed the union’s release on Tuesday of internal Ausgrid documents which showed about 49 cases of asbestos-related illness at the company in 22 years.The ETU claims there is still friable – or easily-crumbled – asbestos at underground electricity substations and meter boards.
Workcover NSW is coordinating the audit, which will involve Endeavour Energy, Ausgrid and Essential Energy, TransGrid and the state’s power generators Delta Electricity, Macquarie Generation and Eraring Energy.Representatives from all parties will meet for the first time on November 14 to agree on terms of reference to set out the process for asbestos removal across the industry.
ETU secretary Steve Butler said he welcomed the government’s decision.
“It’s a compete turnaround (by the companies),” he told AAP on Thursday.
“We have zero tolerance to asbestos, it’s got to be removed.”
The audit will bring each company’s own auditing processes into one single system, Mr Butler said.
“What’s been identified is that those audits are out of sync.
“They are all different, so now there will be the one audit to cover the whole industry.”