OHS and WHS: Asbestos found in railway suspension systems in WA

As asbestos awareness week approaches, the West Australian government has issued a statement saying asbestos has been found in friction wear plates in the suspension systems of rail carriages, purchased between 2007 and 2014 from China.

According to the government they were thought to be asbestos-free and the wear plates have not needed replacing since the carriages were acquired.

Testing by a National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accredited laboratory in Australia has found that the wear plates contain chrysotile (white) asbestos. 

In recent months asbestos has been found in a range of imported building products across Australia, even though the importation of asbestos products has been banned since 2003, including fibre cement boards, expanded polystyrene panels and gaskets in various forms of plant.

The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety issued a statement suggesting:

  • Some countries still manufacture products that contain asbestos, and may classify goods as “asbestos free” even when they contain a proportion of asbestos.
  • Certification provided to importers from overseas manufacturers that goods are asbestos free has sometimes been proven incorrect or unreliable.

The department has also suggested the following action is required:

  • Businesses that own or operate rail carriages should ensure that wear plates have been tested for the presence of asbestos and the test results recorded.
  • If asbestos is identified in materials at workplaces and these were not in situ prior to 31 December 2003, WorkSafe should be informed and a plan made to remove the asbestos containing materials.
  • Importers from countries that still manufacture asbestos-containing goods should be aware of the different definitions and standards applied to asbestos in the country of origin.
  • Obtain product-testing results from the overseas supplier or manufacturer to check that the plant/goods do not contain any asbestos (testing should be carried out at an accredited laboratory equivalent to NATA).
  • Arrange for an independent test of plant components or building products before they are initially shipped to Australia. NATA accredited laboratories in Australia and international equivalent laboratories are listed on the NATA website (see below).
  • Multiple shipments of the same product will require additional random testing (NATA accredited or equivalent laboratory) to check that subsequent batches of the goods are asbestos free.


Image sourced from Flickr cc: Hugh Llewelyn

Back to blog