Telstra appoints independent advisers to review asbestos practices

Media Release, 02 June 2013

Telstra has appointed independent advisers and a 34-year Telstra engineering veteran to ensure Telstra has best practice asbestos management work practices protecting employees, contractors and the public.

The appointments follow a range of operational improvements announced last Thursday in response to recent incidents involving Telstra contractors.

Telstra Chief Operating Officer Brendon Riley today said PriceWaterhouseCoopers would work as the company’s independent advisers to help review Telstra systems and processes.

Mr Riley said Executive Director of Telstra Network Construction, John Gibbs, would oversee all asbestos management activities, including current compliance and outcomes from last week’s contractor audits. John is one of Telstra’s most experienced executives leading complex and large scale construction and engineering projects across Australia.

Telstra will meet Federal Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten, with Federal department, union and NBN Co. representatives in Canberra tomorrow to support a broader coordinated approach to asbestos management in Australia.

“Telstra continues to take major steps to confirm best practice in asbestos management by its employees and ensure that all contractors and sub-contractors meet the same high standards under the Federal Code of Practice,” Mr Riley said.

“Our highest priority is the safety and peace of mind of our staff and the community. We will work closely with the Federal Government to do our part in dealing with asbestos risks alongside other industries with potential exposure.

“We have acted decisively by implementing extra checks, controls and training and adding significant extra people and resources to reassure the community when it comes to our work in the field.”

Telstra last week announced a new field workforce of up to 200 specialists to directly inspect and supervise all asbestos-related remediation work as well as mandatory Telstra-designed training for all contractors and sub-contractors.

Telstra’s actions to date 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.
  • 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.
  • Appointment of John Gibbs, Executive Director Network Construction, to oversee all asbestos management activities
  • Appointment of PriceWaterhouseCoopers as independent advisers

Additional improvements, including any necessary changes from operational reviews of reported incidents in the field, will be progressively announced as they are reviewed and finalised.

Any resident concerned about work in their area should contact Telstra on a dedicated hotline number at 1800 067 225.