Asbestos found in imported products

WorkCover NSW

Friday, 14 August, 2015

A prohibition notice has been issued to a building site in Sydney following the discovery of asbestos in fibrous building panels imported to construct a residential building.

The panels, imported from China, were thought to be asbestos-free, but subsequent testing by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) has shown they contain chrysotile asbestos.

The expanded polystyrene (EPS) panels were cut and therefore significantly damaged on-site. The builder was ordered to engage a licensed asbestos removalist to remediate the site and remove the remaining panels.

While asbestos has been a prohibited product in Australia since December 2003, many countries still use it in manufactured products. WorkCover NSW has said that certifications provided to importers from overseas manufacturers stating that goods are asbestos-free, for the purposes of Australian regulations, have sometimes been found wrong.

Local standards in some supplier countries may classify goods ‘asbestos-free’ where they meet a certain low level of asbestos content. However, in Australia, a product found with any level of asbestos is prohibited for import or use.

WorkCover said importers should be aware of the varying definitions and standards applied in the country of origin and/or supply, and that Australian regulations apply at the border.

Importers must ensure they do not import asbestos into Australia by:

  • requesting certification from the manufacturer that the goods are asbestos-free;
  • obtaining evidence from the overseas supplier, such as product testing results, showing the product/material does not contain asbestos;
  • arranging a competent person to sample the goods/materials for testing by a laboratory prior to shipping.

WorkCover said it is recommended that a NATA accredited laboratory, accredited for the relevant test method AS 4964 Method for the qualitative identification of asbestos in bulk samples, or internationally equivalent laboratories be used for testing products.

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