Local Govt | National News Video | Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Search

 

Government must do more about Asbestos problem

Asbestos: biggest workplace killer – Government must do more now


The CTU is deeply concerned about the exposure to deadly asbestos Christchurch rebuild workers are experiencing. Fletchers, the major contractor responsible for a significant part of the rebuild project, will be in court on Friday facing possible charges for not complying with the law and keeping workers safe.

“Asbestos causes cancer. No exposure is safe. We have known this fact since at least 1986 when the World Health Organisation declared just that. Demolition workers, tradespeople, carpenters and householders may have been needlessly exposed to asbestos fibres in Christchurch. The Government should have been proactive in its approach to the presence of this known workplace carcinogen. The Government has a moral obligation to take urgent action. This should include monitoring the people who have been exposed, and compensating them if needed,” said CTU Policy Director, Bill Rosenberg.

“New Zealand is out of step with many other countries around the world as we fail to have a plan in place to eliminate asbestos. Banning all importation of asbestos products is a critical step. In Australia and the U.K., asbestos products are strictly banned at the border. Urgency should be given to upgrading the asbestos regulations rather than waiting until April 2015. There should be notification of work with asbestos, employers should be required to keep records of working with asbestos, and buildings known to contain asbestos should be registered,” Rosenberg said. The CTU listed twelve action points on asbestos.

“The Government has a goal of reducing workplace accidents by 25 percent by 2020. It must also have a goal around asbestos. The European Parliament has agreed to 'eradicate' asbestos by 2028.” Rosenberg said. “In New Zealand we should have a national plan to eliminate asbestos from buildings by 2030. The aim should be to completely eradicate asbestos from all workplaces,” said Rosenberg.

“MBIE estimates that 170 deaths occur a year from asbestos-related diseases, and that this will rise to over 300 as the results of the ‘asbestos boom’ of the 1970s make themselves felt. Even 170 is double the number of workplace deaths each year from injury – a number which is itself far too high. We can and must prevent more deaths in future decades,” said Rosenberg.

“The risks have been known to employers and government for thirty years. There is no excuse for putting off decisive action any longer.” Rosenberg said.

The NZCTU recommends:
1. An immediate priority to upgrading the asbestos health and safety regulations currently these are slated to come into force alongside the proposed Health and Safety at Work Act in mid-2015. This is too far away and the Minister of Labour should regulate as quickly as possible. Further amendments can be made following more detailed consultation.
2. As MBIE has proposed, the regulations should be based on the Australian approach which includes a presumption that asbestos is present in the built environment and therefore workplaces, and lowering the exposure limits which are out of line with international standards, and require more prescription in relation to removal work.
3. There should be mandatory licensing and training for those working with asbestos (both maintenance and demolition);
4. The distinction between friable and non-friable asbestos is unhelpful given the possible deterioration of previously non-friable asbestos. This should be removed.
5. A complete ban on the importation of asbestos-containing products should be implemented.
6. A National Plan to eliminate all asbestos containing material from the built environment by 2030.

Notification and registers
7. All work with asbestos notifiable under workplace health and safety legislation.
8. The Government should take urgent steps to implement a Health Surveillance scheme similar to that used in the United Kingdom for many years. This requires employers (or all persons conducting businesses or undertakings under the proposed law changes) to keep records of worker exposure to hazards such as asbestos for 40 years to allow tracking of long latency diseases such as those caused by asbestos exposure (see Part 26 of our submission on the Health and Safety Reform Bill).
9. All identified asbestos in Christchurch should be registered. If a building contains asbestos materials the priority should be to remove it. If asbestos is identified in a building it should be notified in LIM reports.
10. The National Asbestos Registers should be reinvigorated and improved including by making them compulsory.
11. Lung cancer should be registered and recorded in more detail.
12. There should be a system of notification by medical practitioners of all potential asbestos related conditions/exposures including, lung cancer and pleural plaques [asbestosis and mesothelioma are currently recorded].

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On The Ch-Ch-Changes At IRD

job cuts aren’t happening at the IRD, exactly. Instead, there’s apparently a ‘transformation’ in store, and jobs won’t be axed ; no, they will be ‘transformed’ before our eyes into… non-jobs, if you happen to be among the unlucky legion of 1,900 who are being lined up for transformation, which seems to work rather like a secular version of the Rapture.

Except that at IRD, not even your shoes will be left behind. More>>

 

Christchurch Mental Health: Hospital Too 'Awful' For Reviewers To Visit

Jonathan Coleman has to stop the stalling over a new building for mental health services in Christchurch to replace the quake damaged Princess Margaret Hospital, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark... More>>

ALSO:

Greens Call For Govt Action: Children Sick Because Of NZ Housing

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians president-elect said today that children with preventable respiratory illnesses are being re-admitted to hospital because they're being sent back to cold, damp homes. More>>

ALSO:

Less Tax Cut, More Spending: Labour Launches Fiscal Plan

“Labour will invest $8 billion more in health, $4 billion more in education and $5 billion more for Kiwi families through Working for Families, Best Start and the Winter Energy Payment than the Budget 2017 projections for the forecast period.” More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Greens’ Room For Political Pragmatism

The Greens here are currently being criticized by the commentariat for not making the same kind of pragmatic choices that sunk the Democrats in Australia. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Being Humane About Welfare, Child Support, And Tax

It made for an unusual Venn diagram, but Greens co-leader Metiria Turei and Finance Minister Steven Joyce were briefly sharing some common elements this week in the set that says – hey, don’t use the powers of the state in ways guaranteed to make the system you’re trying to defend worse, not better. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

Featured InfoPages

Opening the Election