Safety Alert Notification

Asbestos found in construction materials across the country.

15/02/2016 – More than 50 building sites across the nation are suspected of illegal asbestos contamination from China, in a problem described as the “tip of the iceberg” an ABC report states.

Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency CEO Peter Tighe said he was aware of 64 sites where asbestos-tainted concrete fibre sheeting has been used in construction.

State workplace safety authorities are monitoring 17 sites in New South Wales, 13 in Queensland, 11 in South Australia and eight in Victoria.

Key points:

  • So-called “asbestos free” building materials that actually contain the deadly compound continue to slip into Australia from overseas, despite an import ban
  • Workplace safety authorities are monitoring 64 building sites across the nation for asbestos, including 17 in New South Wales, 13 in Queensland and 11 in South Australia
  • Unions and victims are concerned the problem could worsen under the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA)

“It’s an emerging problem and it seems to be growing exponentially, as more and more products are brought into Australia, because of the wind-down of manufacturing in this country,” he said.

“What we’ve really got now is really an indication which could be the tip of the iceberg.”

Importing asbestos into Australia has been banned for more than a decade.

But the deadly substance is slipping into the country illegally from places like China, in products often certified as “asbestos free”.

The popular building product, concrete fibre sheeting, is one area of concern.

Adelaide contractor RJE used the material, which was imported from China, in the flooring of two electrical substations in South Australia.

Recent tests confirmed the materials contained white asbestos.

Mr Tighe is worried about workers being unwittingly exposed to the new wave of asbestos.

“Our young tradespeople haven’t been trained to deal with these products. They think they’re asbestos free,” he said.

“It’s really a risk to these individuals, to their clients and to members of the public who might be in the vicinity when there’s cutting, drilling or manipulation of asbestos cement products.”

View the full report here.

NOTE: The information provided in this bulletin is for guidance purposes only. Please familiarise yourself with your legal responsibilities in your state or territory.