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Asbestos concerns remain for rail workers

Asbestos concerns remain for rail workers

The Rail and Maritime Transport Union says some KiwiRail locomotives have tested positive for loose asbestos fibres and that a plan to return the locomotives to service is premature.

KiwiRail and union officials are meeting in Auckland today and tomorrow to discuss the results of a second round of testing for asbestos in 40 DL locomotives.

The union remains concerned at the reintroduction of the locomotives, and had hoped to clarify a number of these concerns at the meeting, but was disappointed to see the meeting pre-empted by an announcement from KiwiRail last night, Rail & Maritime Transport Union General Secretary Wayne Butson said.

“One of the locomotives returned a positive result for loose asbestos fibres. The presence of loose fibres is of huge concern to us, as it is loose fibres that have the potential to be respirable.

“The first round of test results turned up negative for airborne asbestos fibres or asbestos dust. Now, the second ones are showing presence of asbestos in some locomotives. We need to see a comparison between the first and second round of testing for each locomotive, in order to understand why some have gone from negative to positive.”

“We also need to know at what point the asbestos in the locomotives becomes prone to releasing respirable fibres. Testing for this must be done proactively, rather than reactive testing that identifies a danger after our members have already operated or repaired the locomotives.”

"KiwiRail’s statement yesterday was presumptive as we are meeting with the company today and Wednesday to discuss whether or not the locomotives will be returned to service and operated by our members," Wayne Butson said.


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