Foil insulation kept being used in the pink batts scheme despite being linked to a Queensland installer’s death because of conflicting views about its safety, an inquiry has heard.
Matthew Fuller, 25, was electrocuted while laying foil insulation sheeting in the ceiling cavity of a home south of Brisbane on October 14, 2009.
Another two Queensland tradesmen died while installing the product before former environment minister Peter Garrett suspended it from the program.
Mr Garrett’s policy adviser, Matt Levey, has told a royal commission that foil insulation wasn’t suspended immediately after Mr Fuller’s death because there were conflicting views about its use.
The best advice at the time, he said, was to ban metal staples.
Counsel Assisting, Keith Wilson, asked why the use of foil insulation wasn’t immediately suspended, given there was doubt about its use.
“I think in hindsight that makes absolute sense,” Mr Levey replied.
Mr Fuller was stapling foil to roof timbers when he was killed.
The inquiry has heard bureaucrats devising the scheme were warned that three New Zealand men died while securing foil insulation with metal staples in 2007.
But Mr Levey said those warnings never filtered through to him or Mr Garrett.
He said Mr Garrett, who considered safety a priority, was shocked to learn of Mr Fuller’s death.
“Until the first fatality was reported we certainly weren’t assuming that there was that level of risk out there. That was very much a shock to us,” Mr Levey’s statement to the inquiry read.
Earlier on Monday technical expert James Fricker told the inquiry he had supported the use of foil, but knew it could be deadly.
Mr Fricker, who advised the environment department on the effectiveness of insulation products, also said the use of metal staples was a “huge concern”.
But he said he expected installers would be given adequate training.
“At that time I thought it could be done safely,” he said.
“Now I wouldn’t recommend that practice.”
Mr Fricker also told the inquiry that insulation representatives warned the Rudd government that it was “insane” to rollout the program in two years.
He said concerns about the two-year timeframe were conveyed at a meeting on February 18 2009, just weeks after the scheme’s announcement.
Industry representatives believed the two year timeframe would mean installers wouldn’t have enough time to be properly trained and the demand for insulation would exceed the ability of Australian manufacturers to keep up.
The home insulation scheme launched by former prime minister Kevin Rudd to stimulate the economy was flooded by new installers and low-skilled workers.
It’s been blamed for the three Queensland deaths and another in NSW, one serious injury and at least 100 house fires.
The royal commission before Ian Hanger QC continues.