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Stations set for crackdown on asbestos

A review ordered by WorkSafe of the asbestos management plans in over 300 of New Zealand’s fire stations will include seven stations in Wairarapa.

An Official Information Act request to Fire and Emergency New Zealand [Fenz] shows that the fire stations at Tora, Masterton, Martinborough, Riversdale Beach, Ngāwī, Lake Ferry, and Featherston are included in the review.

Tora Station has one asbestos-containing material [ACM] item, presumed to be inside a locked shed.

Masterton has 54 ACM items, seven of which have been identified as medium-risk and 47 identified as low-risk, while 35 items relate to Masterton flats in which crew are housed.

Martinborough has seven total ACM items, three of which are locked rooms presumed ACM while the remaining four items have been identified as low-risk ACM.

Riversdale Beach has one item [a locked shed] that’s presumed to be hold ACM.

Ngāwī has two low-risk ACM items.

Featherston Station has seven low-risk ACM items, some of which may have already been removed.

A spokesperson from Fenz has clarified that this review does not require fire stations to be upgraded or for asbestos-containing materials to be removed.

Instead, the review directs Fenz to revisit “all asbestos management plans … to ensure they are implemented, monitored, and effective”.

The review was ordered after a central Auckland fire station was hit with an improvement notice, following its partial closure for weeks due to asbestos contamination in April.

Noting the deadly impact asbestos contamination can have, WorkSafe estimated that seven years ago it caused 170 deaths, a toll now estimated to be 220 workplace fatalities.

Fenz Wairarapa group manager Craig Cottrill said the review is about making sure people understand asbestos management in their stations.

“The plan identifies the places where asbestos-containing material is,” Cottrill said.

“It says what can and can’t be done in and around those specific locations.”

Masterton, as a larger fire station, has significantly higher ACM items logged, something Cottrill said also comes down to its age and how it was constructed.

Cottrill said ensuring there is a proper understanding of ACM in the workplace and that the correct protocols are in place will avoid any future situations like the recent Auckland partial closure.

“That’s what happened in Auckland – they drilled a hole in a wall, penetrating it,” Cottrill said.

“You can’t penetrate it, because then it may release particles, so it had to be decontaminated and the firefighters had to be removed from that location.”

Cottrill said all asbestos management plans at Wairarapa stations will be finished with the review process by 31 July.

Fenz said that, nationally, 306 fire stations and other work sites are affected by the review.

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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