The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has ordered its members of stop working on electric meters in homes constructed before 1983. The order is in response to a hazard warning that Sydney-based company, Endeavor Energy, issued to its workers due to risks from asbestos exposure.
Asbestos cancer, officially known as malignant mesothelioma is a rare cancer that affects the pleural lining of the lungs, heart, or abdomen.
The hazard warning covers about 800,000 residences in western Sydney, Blue Mountains and the Illawarra serviced by Endeavor. The ETU is scheduled to meet with Endeavor officials on Tuesday to discuss the ban.
Endeavor Chief Operating Office Rod Howard said the company released a precautionary safety alert on Friday to its employees after one worker reported the presence of asbestos dust residues in meters installed in older homes. He pointed out that while asbestos is safe in its bonded form, when drilled it creates residue which workers are required to remove based on standard industry benchmarks.
He said that although residents of the older homes are not at risk, if they need to access their switchboard, they must get in touch with a licensed electrician. Until a review of the meter boards is finished, Endeavor advised its staff to wear masks when working on meter boards installed in older houses.
The Sydney Morning Herald estimates about two million homes could have the asbestos dusts on their electricity meters, including non-Endeavor customers.
The Asbestos Disease Foundation of Australia criticised Endeavor for protecting its workers, but not warning the public of the risks they face.
"There's no safe level of exposure to asbestos and it's exactly these scenarios that could create a third wave of asbestos victims. Endeavor Energy needs to begin an urgent public awareness campaign. If it doesn't, it will have to wear responsibility for the consequences," The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Barry Robson of the foundation.
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