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Electrical Workers Union Issues Warning about Mesothelioma Risk

x-ray showing mesothelioma in lungs


Hundreds of electricians around the country are thought to have contracted deadly mesothelioma from working on meter boards which may contain asbestos.


The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has issued a warning to its members and says it wants the states to carry out an audit of meter boards in government-owned buildings.


There are potentially thousands of electrical boards around the country with asbestos in them.


The latest concern comes after a worker in New South Wales feared being exposed to the deadly dust last week.


He is now waiting on the results of health tests.


Brian Stokes worked as an electrician from 1952 to 1995 and recently found out he has mesothelioma.


“I had a persistent cough and then the doctor had an X-ray taken and that’s where it showed up with the fluid around the lung,” he said.


“You can hardly see my ribcage from all the fluid around me lungs and he (the doctor) realised something was drastically wrong.”


Mr Stokes says he is still coming to terms with his diagnosis.


“It didn’t hit me straight away and it still hasn’t really hit me, but I’m just treating it as every day, to live as best I can,” he said.


Mr Stokes has no doubt the cancer in his lungs came from the deadly fibres found in meter boards he once worked on.


Union alert


ETU assistant national secretary Allen Hicks says too many of its members have contracted mesothelioma over the years.


“If there’s a risk, any risk at all, of exposure to asbestos then we would certainly recommend our members not work on those boards till such time as it’s been remedied,” he said.


“We’re not confident that all electrical workers understand these risks and we want to make sure it’s loudly known and clearly known to electrical workers across the country.”


Brian Stokes’s lawyer Tanya Segelov supports the ETU’s national action.


“That’s an electrician’s main exposure, is through switchboard and there have been hundreds and hundreds of electricians who have contracted mesothelioma as a result,” she said.


In addition to being a partner at Turner Freeman lawyers, Ms Segelov was also a member of the Federal Government’s asbestos management review.


“In the recommendation of that report which is with Government is that only licensed professionals deal with asbestos,” he said.


Ms Segelov says electricians need to be properly trained to deal with the threat.


“We considered that in the review and we believe that if it is incidental to your work, then you can work with it but people must be properly trained, they must undergo a course, they must have some certification so that they identify the asbestos and they know what precautions they need to take, she said.

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