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Thursday, 20 June 2013 07:15

Telstra announces NBN asbestos requirements

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Telstra has announced a number of requirements for its three key NBN rollout contractors about handling asbestos in pit remediation.

The requirements are based on an internal Telstra review after adverse publicity surrounding contractors not properly dealing with asbestos in Telstra pits being prepared for the NBN.

A number of incidents brought to Telstra’s attention of possible non-compliance by its contractors with asbestos handling guidelines. Telstra says it has identified that each key contractor has specific areas for improvement in their processes to manage subcontractors. Contractors have been advised that the relevant improvements are mandatory before any return to work. Telstra said in a statement that it expects its contractors to comply with their agreements, otherwise they will not remain key suppliers to Telstra.

Telstra now requires its key contractors to take the following actions:

  • Strengthen field supervision staffing and oversight of subcontractor staff.
  • Address gaps in induction procedures for new staff. Some contractors were found to have participated only in basic asbestos awareness and competency training.
  • Disclose sub-ontractor procedures to Telstra to ensure safe asbestos handling and removal can occur.
  • Ensure all contractor and subcontractor staff complete mandatory training in asbestos management.
  • Work with Telstra to reinforce the required standards for subcontractors’ field team supplies, ensuring all field staff carry adequate supplies for safe asbestos handling.
  • Work with Telstra to strengthen community engagement in remediation areas. Telstra has committed to working with NBN Co to create standard community engagement procedures and documentation.

Telstra’s Chief Operations Officer, Brendon Riley said: “The preliminary review and other information we have gained has shown there are important areas for improvement among contractors. Prior to allowing recommencement of works, we are requiring our contractors make changes to ensure they comply with their contractual commitments.

“The review supports our decision, announced in late May, to implement a number of measures including increased oversight of our contractors. We are recruiting additional inspectors and quality specialists. We expect the number of inspectors and quality specialists to reach up to 200 as the NBN volumes increase. These specialists will be critical in inspecting and supervising asbestos-related remediation work by contractors and their subcontractors.

“We are working closely with Comcare and other stakeholders to strengthen mandatory training and field inspection for contractors and subcontractors. Anyone working as a contractor or sub-contractor for Telstra will be required to undertake this retraining before commencing any remediation work on the cement pits.

Update of actions to be undertaken

Issue: Each key contractor was found to have specific areas for improvement, requiring changes.

Action: Contractors have been instructed to work on addressing these areas. They have been notified improvements are mandatory for them to resume work under their contracts.

Issue: Overall field supervision by the contractors of their teams and their subcontractors was not sufficient in all cases.

Action: All contractors will be required to strengthen their field supervision staffing and oversight. Telstra has already announced that it will appoint up to 200 additional staff to drive more intensive field supervision. The Telstra team will work collaboratively with the contractor supervision teams.

Issue: While contractors participated in basic asbestos awareness and competency training, there were gaps in contractor training records for their subcontractor staff.

Action: Telstra has announced plans to ensure mandatory standards are met for training contractors and sub-contractors as well as internal staff, ensuring rigorous and consistent standards will apply to all training content and delivery, employee induction, testing, certification and record keeping.

Issue: Concerns that contractor or sub-contractor field staff may not have had adequate supplies on all occasions.

Action: Telstra is working with contractors to reinforce standards in relation to supplies for relevant field teams, with appropriate documentation, oversight and checking. Work will not commence until requirements are met.

Issue: Concerns there may be issues in relation to the adequacy of training, supervision and provision of safety equipment within the sub-contractor chain.

Action: Telstra is reviewing each key contractor’s sub-contractor supply chain to ensure full visibility of safety arrangements.

Issue: Community engagement needs to be strengthened across the board.
Action: The great majority of asbestos pit remediation and handling is being undertaken as a result of the NBN project. Telstra is committed to working with NBN Co to create a set of standard community engagement procedures.


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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson sadly passed away in Jan 2021 and a much valued senior associate editor at iTWire. He was one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is the author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’He was in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism. Graeme will be sadly missed by the iTWire Family, Readers, Customers and PR firms.

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