Media Release, 30 May 2013

Telstra today announced a range of initiatives it would begin implementing immediately as it continued to audit asbestos management work practices. This includes a new field workforce of up to 200 specialists to directly inspect and supervise all asbestos-related remediation work and mandatory Telstra-designed training for all contractors and subcontractors.

Chief Operations Officer Brendon Riley said Telstra was deeply concerned by the situation and would take every precaution necessary to strengthen Telstra's asbestos management processes. "These are strong actions reflecting our absolute priority on the safety of our workers, our contractors and the community,"Mr Riley said, "This is our responsibility so we will take direct control of all asbestos related activity performed by our contractors."

The initiatives include: Up to 200 additional inspection and supervisory jobs will be created to ensure all asbestos-related remediation activity is supervised by an accredited person. Advertising and internal selection for these roles has commenced.

Telstra will reinforce its high compliance standards with all relevant field employees working with asbestos. This will include every manager reminding their staff about the safety measures that need to be adhered to.The temporary stop work on pit remediation will stay in place for contractors (and sub-contractors) until they have completed further training on working with, removing, transporting and disposing of asbestos containing material.

Following the audit Telstra will work with Comcare and an accredited training partner to review and update the mandatory training program that all Telstra contractors will need to implement before they are approved to work on Telstra pits.

Stronger community engagement guidelines to ensure the community is better informed about work in their areas, including longer notification periods, more intensive doorknocking and letterbox drops and improved signage at worksites alerting residents to asbestos-related works.

Telstra has established a hotline for any resident concerned about work in their area. The number is 1800 067 225.

Any additional improvements arising from the audit will be progressively shared as they are finalised.

Mr Riley said Telstra would cooperate with the Office of Asbestos Safety to establish and lead a high level working group, with involvement from NBN Co, Comcare and our lead contractors, to implement and monitor an asbestos management plan for maintenance or the NBN roll-out.

"This will include engaging all relevant authorities and other parties, including unions, to ensure stakeholders are involved with the steps Telstra is taking to ensure compliance with all Federal legislation and codes of practice" Mr Riley said.

Telstra commenced an audit into the work practices of its contractors last week after a number of incidents of non-compliant asbestos management and removal. The audit is aimed at ensuring the law and our own strict guidelines are adhered to at all times, and to provide the public with confidence in the safety of this process as it occurs.