Various sectors of the Australian media have been reporting on the potential use of asbestos-tainted sacks by Australian soldiers and Defence personnel. Asbestos exposure is a recurring risk for the Australian armed services due to items in use, such as the dummy, and the existence of asbestos in various buildings.
The issue of asbestos persisting in sacks was given prominence in the last 12 months by ABC journalist Matt Peacock in his book “Killer Company”. Peacock reported that inadequately cleaned sacks were reused as carpet underlay in Australia and for other purposes.
Defence provided the following response to SafetyAtWorkBlog’s enquiries on 9 June 2010:
“An article has been placed in Army News advising that Defence has identified that ADF and APS employees may have been exposed to asbestos during their training with the M2A2 Dummy Drill Bags.
The drill bags were in use from 1962, when first introduced into service. Not all bags contained asbestos. Generally, the Australian manufactured bags contained rice or wood meal (saw dust). US manufactured bags are more likely to contain asbestos.
An investigation into use of the dummy charge bags since introduction into service indicates it is likely that potential exposure is limited to mainly Artillery instructors.
Current and retired ADF members and APS employees who think they may have been exposed and would like to have their asbestos related medical status evaluated are encouraged to contact the Defence hotline on 1800 DEFENCE (1800 333 362) and register with the Defence Asbestos Exposure Evaluation Scheme.” (links added)
The use of these sacks by the Army should illustrate a potential that could exist in many workplaces in Australia. Dust can be hazardous in many ways – inhalation, dermal exposure, slippage, decreased visibility. The article above shows that housekeeping, ventilation and dust control should not be dismissed as a housekeeping matter.