Asbestos imports still posing OHS and WHS risk to construction workers

The CFMEU have accused Commonwealth Senators of putting building industry profits and global free trade ahead of people’s lives, with the rejection of recommendations of a Senate Committee Inquiry report on illegal asbestos imports.

According to the union, the Committee recently handed down its interim report on asbestos importation making 26 recommendations, which include prioritising prosecutions, increasing penalties and deterrents, tougher requirements when importing high risk products from high risk countries, and funding for asbestos awareness training in the construction industry.

But the union says coalition senators on the committee released a dissenting report, rejecting the recommendations to stem the tide of illegal importation of asbestos and manage the risks associated with it.

“The ban on asbestos imports has been flouted with impunity, putting Australian lives at risk,” said CFMEU national construction secretary Dave Noonan.

“Every day, workers in construction and building trades face the threat of exposure to deadly asbestos. The Australian Government has dropped the ball and workers have no way of knowing whether new building products being used in construction contain asbestos.”

“Any exposure to asbestos is unsafe. Asbestos related diseases are deadly and there is no cure.

“Hundreds of hours of testimony and thousands of pages of evidence have been ignored by the Coalition,” said Noonan.

“Senators on the committee, have put building industry profits and global free trade interests ahead of the safety of building workers.”

Imports of products containing asbestos into Australia have been banned since December 2003, with a Senate estimates in October revealing Border Force made 63 detections of products laced with deadly asbestos in 2016, which is a fivefold increase from the 2015-2016 financial year,” said Noonan.

Yuanda, a Chinese building company, escaped with a paltry fine despite admitting responsibility for importing lethal asbestos-laced building products in Brisbane’s “tower of power’’ and only received a small fine for supplying contaminated roofing panels to the $1.2 billion children’s hospital in Perth.


Image sourced from Flickr cc: Travis

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