Importing Goods into Australia Comes With the Risk of Asbestos

ALTHOUGH regulation banning the import of all types of asbestos and products containing asbestos has been in place for over a decade, increased overseas manufacturing means businesses are now at risk of importing the mineral fibres.

Recently Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency CEO Peter Tighe brought attention to the issue by stating he was aware of 64 sites where concrete fibre sheeting containing asbestos has been used in construction. It is believed that the building materials containing the banned substance were imported from China.

The importer of any given material is fully responsible for ensuring the materials are asbestos free before they reach Australia. The penalty for non-compliance is large, either three times the value of the goods or 1000 penalty units of $180 each, making a total of $180,000.

Australia has a zero tolerance policy for any asbestos level within manufactured goods.

You have two options to ensure goods are asbestos-free
1. A certificate can be obtained stating the goods are asbestos free – however, certifications provided to importers from overseas manufacturers have, on occasion, proved to be incorrect or unreliable.

This can occur because local standards in some supplier countries may classify goods ‘asbestos free’ where they meet a certain low level of asbestos. It is not always the supply countries that you would assume. For example, in the US a product containing 1% asbestos is considered to be ‘asbestos free’.

2. Test a sample of the product in Australia before the consignment in question is imported.

Products that are most at risk of containing asbestos.

Building Materials
  • cement compound board
  • compress asbestos sheeting
  • corrugated sheets
  • bitumen products used for damp-proofing
  • heat resistant sealing and caulking compounds
  • heating equipment
  • lagging switchgear with washers
  • electrical panel partitioning
  • electrical cloths and tape
Motor Vehicles/Bikes and Parts
  • motor vehicles/bikes including electric motor vehicles
  • Parts at risk include gaskets, seals and friction materials (brake linings or blocks, clutch linings)
Mining/Heavy industry equipment
  •  pre-assembled switch rooms
  • flash vessels
  • effluent treatment equipment
  • various gaskets
  • joining material in flues
  • washers and friction materials.
Ships and Resources Installations in excess of 150 Gross Tonnage
  • Resources installations ships, barges and tugs may incorporate risk applications/construction including electrical panel partitioning, insulation for bulkheads, pipes & cables and manhole gaskets.
Trains/Locomotives
  • Insulation applications around the exhaust & muffler systems
  • pipe systems

If you are importing goods into Australia and are unsure of the risk of asbestos, Seabridge has experienced and knowledgeable customs consultants that are able to advise on the risk and the possible courses of action. Please give Seabridge a call today and avoid penalties.

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