The Australian Border Force (ABF) will continue to focus on asbestos compliance this year, service providers and importers should take a precautionary approach when importing into Australia goods that present a high risk for containing asbestos.
While the ABF has fully applied Australia’s asbestos border controls since the introduction of legislation listing asbestos as a prohibited import, they are now concentrating efforts to ensure that asbestos is not deliberately or inadvertently entering the Australian market in materials used for residential and commercial developments. Building materials known to pose a risk include cut stone and manufactured stone, cement fibre products used in products such as internal tiles, floorboards, ceiling panels and wall boards, prefabricated kits (houses, trailers, caravans) and modules for residential and commercial applications.
Importers of building material should:
- Ensure there is documentary evidence to demonstrate that the risk management of their
supply chain effectively addresses asbestos. If the ABF is not assured, the importer will be directed
under the Act to have the building materials sampled and tested for asbestos.
- Ensure their risk management processes are up to date and take into consideration whether the
country of manufacture allows any use of asbestos in the goods being imported. Contaminated raw
materials and irregular third party suppliers can introduce asbestos into a supply chain. Importers
should question if the manufacturer tests raw materials for asbestos and if the supplier takes
measures to actively source asbestos-alternative ingredients.
- Be mindful that there is a risk in sourcing materials from a supplier that cannot provide evidence of
there being no asbestos in their supply chain. If a third-party or wholesale supplier does not have
first-hand knowledge of the manufacturing processes, the effect of brand damage to the importer’s
commercial reputation is likely to be significant if asbestos is detected. Business decisions should
not to be influenced by cheaper prices from manufacturers that knowingly use asbestos but also
guarantee risk-free production. These suppliers should be avoided altogether. The financial losses
that are suffered when goods are seized and the potential fines incurred are likely to far outweigh
any initial price benefit.
- Understand that newly manufactured goods containing asbestos are not always of poor quality in
appearance, and may be entirely functional for their intended purpose. If they contain asbestos,
however, they are prohibited.
Extra caution should be applied when importing items originating from countries that have non-existent, less
stringent or poor regulatory controls. In many countries, despite the known threat to human health, local
standards allow asbestos in manufacturing. Goods manufactured outside Australia might be labelled
‘asbestos free’ or ‘no-asbestos’, but still contain low levels of asbestos.
Information and Image sourced from: Australian Border Force Good Compliance Update Autumn 2021
To find out more about Asbestos visit HERE.