Most of our members in Local 4009 only think about asbestos during the annual “training” that is provided by viewing some electronic files provided by AT&T. Often, such training is not viewed as being that important by employees because the manager may not demonstrate its importance. But, it is important; in the case of asbestos, it is important to you and your family. Asbestos is still prevalent in many areas where we work, usually found in heating-duct insulation, floor-tiles in our buildings and garages and, most recently, in some of the manholes in which our outside members work. When we are exposed to this hazard, it is possible to contaminate our homes with it when asbestos fibers are carried home on a worker’s clothing.
Recently, it was discovered by a CWA safety activist that a manhole in Detroit was contaminated by asbestos that had been used to insulate a steam-pipe which traversed through our manhole. The CWA activist, an air-pressure technician, followed AT&T practice by immediately closing the manhole and contacting his supervisor and AT&T’s Environmental, Health, and Safety department. After abating the asbestos hazard by removing all visible asbestos material from the manhole, air-quality testing was conducting by the abatement contractor. We were alarmed to learn that the manhole was still contaminated because “fresh” asbestos fibers were blowing into the newly cleaned manhole from further down the steam-pipe run. The manhole was still too dangerous to enter without serious protective measures for our workers. The manhole, MH8552, is still closed to AT&T workers while other measures are being explored. At CWA’s insistence, the other manholes which are adjacent to MH8552 are being tested for asbestos contamination as well and results are pending. If you think you have been in this manhole before March 1, 2017, please inform your manager and your Union rep that you would like to be tested.
- Protect yourself, your coworkers, and the public: If you see or know a steam-pipe is in your work-area or, do not purge and ventilate the manhole; close the lid and call your supervisor and your Union representative. Do not enter a manhole or vault that has a steam-pipe in it until your supervisor can provide the testing report that indicates there are no asbestos fibers present in the air or on the surfaces in the manhole. This is your right under OSHA (see below)
- Share this information with your coworkers and managers. If one of your coworkers has a safety concern, stand in solidarity with that coworker until the hazard is resolved! There are some folks who seem to prefer to put production ahead of safety; that harms us all. If you get push-back from management, call your steward and then inform your manager, “I reasonably believe there may be asbestos in the work area and would like to see test-results which indicate I will be safe.”
- Let us know if you worked in that manhole. Click here to fill out our form if you are an active or retired member of Local 4009.
Under OSHA, workers have the right to:
- Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
- Receive information and training (in a language and vocabulary the worker understands) about workplace hazards, methods to prevent them, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.
- Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
- Get copies of test results that find and measure hazards.
- File a complaint asking OSHA to inspect their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or that their employer is not following OSHA’s rules.
- OSHA will keep all identities confidential.
- Exercise their rights under the law without retaliation or discrimination.
For more information about your rights to a safe workplace, see OSHA’s workers page.
Be safe out there, your family needs you.
EVP, CWA Local 4009