I have received a report from the head of, Dr Jeff Harmer, on the converted containers housing Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) staff that may have high levels of formaldehyde.
The report documents events from when concerns were first raised by staff about an odour on 8 November 2007 to 10 April 2008, when a report from the supplier, Royal Wolf Trading Australia Pty Ltd, revealed elevated levels of formaldehyde in a container the company tested.
The report reveals there were concerning delays within FaHCSIA responding to this issue.
As a result of the report, Dr Harmer has instigated an independent review which will recommend measures to ensure a rapid response to occupational health and safety issues in the future.
FaHCSIA is currently putting in place additional measures to ensure the continued safety of staff involved in the NTER.
The safety and wellbeing of my staff are my highest priority. I want to reassure all staff and their families that all possible steps are being taken to protect staff health and safety.
FaHCSIA has received advice from National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) that the formaldehyde detected in the tested converted containers is unlikely to cause long-term health effects.
Not withstanding this advice, I encourage all staff to undertake health checks as a precautionary measure. These health checks will be conducted at the expense of the Australian Government.
I also encourage any community members who have spent time inside the containers and have any health concerns to contact FaHCSIA.
FaHCSIA has contracted a firm of experts in property and environmental pollutants to test the converted containers. This is being undertaken as a matter of urgency and will be completed within the next three weeks.
All 26 affected staff are now housed in alternative accommodation.
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