Dodgy building products put consumers at risk, safety experts say
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Dodgy building products put consumers at risk, safety experts say

When Australia signed off on a total ban on asbestos on building products 13 years ago consumers and regulators assumed that "new" meant "safe", ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe said.

"Attention was focused on legacy products," he said. "It may have been a case of letting our guard down too soon."

ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe says national vigilance of imported building products is critical.

ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe says national vigilance of imported building products is critical.Credit:Jamila Toderas

Earlier this month building ministers from around the nation signed off on a protocol to deal with the problem.

Mr McCabe has welcomed the new arrangements, saying experience had shown documentation on products was only as good as the vigilance of the countries that were allowing it to be exported.

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Last year Mr McCabe's staff intervened to confiscate new plasterboard, sourced from China, that was found to be contaminated with asbestos.

The suspect material had been brought through a Queensland supplier for a shop refit at a business in Fyshwick.

It had been sourced by the business owner, not the builder who was doing the work.

"The builder engaged to install modular units (at the shop) suspected the material may be contaminated with asbestos and had a sample analysed," he said. "The analysis came back positive for chrysotile asbestos."

The Queensland supplier had imported the sheeting directly from China.

"A prohibition notice was issued on the storage facility at Mitchell where the sheeting was being stored. WorkSafe ACT (also notified the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, Work Health and Safety Queensland and Customs."

ACT building minister, Mick Gentleman, took part in the recent forum where the issue of non-compliant products was raised.

A working group has been established to develop strategies to minimise risks and to report back within six months.

"Consumers have a right to know imported products meet Australian standards for safety and quality," Mr Gentleman said.

David Ellery is a reporter for The Canberra Times.

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