Page last updated at 07:07 GMT, Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Australia to check safety of 'live' foil insulation

By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Sydney

Kevin Rudd (file image)
Kevin Rudd pushed insulation as part of a national energy-saving plan

The Australian government has ordered a huge safety audit of every home that was fitted with foil insulation as part of a nationwide energy-saving plan.

The insulation programme was suspended after it was linked to a number of electrocution deaths.

Tens of thousands of homes will now have to be checked.

Improperly installed foil insulation can conduct electricity from mains cables, effectively making the entire roof cavity live.

The national insulation programme was a key plank of the Rudd government's environmental strategy, and offered rebates to householders who wanted to conserve energy.

But the metallic foil used in older houses has already killed four electricians who were installing it, the most recent incident coming last week when a 25-year-old contractor was electrocuted in the roof of a home in far north Queensland.

It is believed the metallic foil came into contact with electricity cables, thus making the roof cavity live.

The environment minister Peter Garrett has suspended the programme and called for a safety inspection of tens of thousands of homes.

The government has also conducted an interim audit on 400 homes and found that up to a dozen may be dangerous.

And it is not the first time safety concerns have been raised about the insulation scheme.

Before Christmas, a number of installers died from heat exhaustion because of the high temperatures in roof cavities during the height of the southern summer.

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