The Federal Government has announced it has directed the Office of Asbestos Safety to coordinate a national approach to work with Telstra and its contractors to develop a best practice approach to asbestos safety following a spate of recent instances of asbestos exposure.

“We take any potential cases of asbestos exposure extremely seriously and a national approach to asbestos awareness, handling and eradication is urgently needed,” Minister for Workplace Relations Bill Shorten said.

Legislation to create the national Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency is currently before Parliament. The new Agency will drive the implementation of a National Plan of Action, working with state and territory regulators.

More immediately, the Office of Asbestos Safety will work closely with Comcare, as well as with all 8 responsible State and Territory work health and safety regulators, to ensure best practice management of any potential asbestos hazards arising from the Telstra pits.

“The Office of Asbestos Safety will work closely with Comcare to address any asbestos hazards in a nationally coordinated way, to protect Australians from asbestos exposure,” Mr Shorten said.

“This will ensure that concerning incidents of potential asbestos exposure are acted on quickly and consistently across each state and territory.”

Comcare inspectors are investigating the work health and safety systems of Telstra and its contractors in Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria.

The Office of Asbestos Safety will ensure that the lessons of any shortcomings in asbestos handling and disposal identified by Comcare investigations are acted upon by the Agency.