4 March 2010 – There has been hysteria around the federal government’s determination to insulate Australian homes almost free of charge but in the anxiety that accompanied the revelation of poor and dangerous practices, the facts were overlooked according to a  recent media report.

According to Geoff Winestock writing in The Weekend AFR the facts on insulation include:

  • Data from fire brigades and workers compensation casts doubt on opposition claims that the ceiling insulation program has caused a significant jump in the danger of house fires or industrial accidents, especially after adjusting for the massive jump in insulation use.
  • Based on data from fire brigades for NSW, Queensland, South Australia and metropolitan Melbourne, the only ones with comparable data, there were 115 house fires in 2009 that were caused by faulty installation, slightly higher than the 75 house fires caused by faulty insulation in 2007, before the scheme was operating.
  • About 1.15 million houses have been fitted with insulation under the scheme, compared with an average of about 60,000 installations in 2007.

“‘In terms of fires per installation, the risk has fallen dramatically,” the article said.

“No fire service in Australia is saying there has been a significant increase in house fires linked to the insulation program,”  Jay Gleeson, communication manager for the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council, is quoted as saying.

“The opposition has also blamed the insulation program for causing the deaths of four ceiling installation workers, comparing it to the crime of industrial manslaughter,” the article continued.

“There are no statistics on whether installers were electrocuted before the program started, but it has always been dangerous work.

“Statistics from Safe Work Australia for 2007-8 before the scheme began show about 250 serious injury claims for a category of worker that includes ceiling insulation installers and installers of decorative home improvements. The rate of injuries per thousand workers is double the average for the workforce as a whole.”

The statistics “support the Insulation Council of Australia and New Zealand, representing Fletcher and Bradford, the two big manufacturers of batts, which argues that the program should restart immediately.

“Anthony Tannous, general manager of CSR’s Bradford Insulation and ICANZ president, said the concerns over fires were exaggerated. ‘There has been an exponential increase in installation under the scheme, but the incidence of house fires has not increased proportionately’, Mr Tannous said.

“The industry argues the risk to installers has been minimal since November when foil insulation was banned.”

See TFE’s story on this and another article from expert Lance Turner

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