Asbestos detection on the rise

The hot topic of Asbestos in Imports hasn’t gone away, it’s simply been simmering in the background.  Today we’re sharing this article directly from the Lloyds List which highlights the huge problem of detecting asbestos at our borders.

The Australian Border Force (ABF) has seen an increase in the number of asbestos detections over the past 12 months.

Some 13,000 Polaris quad bikes were recalled by the manufacturer for having asbestos-containing components.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), twelve quad bike models in Polaris’ ‘youth’ range were recalled, as they were found to have brake pads, brake shoes, gaskets and washers which contained asbestos.

A spokesperson from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection told Lloyd’s List Australia the Australian Border Force (ABF) was working closely with the ACCC and other members of the Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) “Imported Materials with Asbestos Working Group” after the quad bikes tested positive for asbestos.

“As part of the ABF’s increased operational focus on detecting asbestos at the border, we have held seven consignments of Polaris quad bikes at the border over the past six months to assess them for the risk of asbestos,” the spokesperson said.

“Testing has seen some brake pads test positive for traces of asbestos.”

The spokesperson continued, saying the results highlighted the importance of the ABF’s multi-layered approach to preventing asbestos from entering the country, which includes educating suppliers and importers on their obligations to ensure goods do not contain asbestos.

“We commend the company for proactively reporting these results and moving quickly to ensure affected vehicles are recalled and made safe,” the spokesperson said.

“The ABF is working with the importer to ensure all future products entering Australia comply with Australia’s strict asbestos border controls. Where necessary, any further imports will be held at the border and tested to confirm they do not contain asbestos.” 

ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said the presence of asbestos in quad bike parts was unlikely to present a safety risk while riding, according to the advice the consumer watchdog had received.

“Nonetheless we are treating this issue extremely seriously and working closely with Polaris to gather all relevant information that enables a fast, efficient remediation of any bikes that contain these parts,” she said.

“The presence of asbestos in quad bike parts is considered more likely to present a safety risk to consumers who do home mechanical work on quad bikes they own, and to employees of businesses who repair and service quad bikes.”

Rigby Cooke customs and trade partner lawyer Andrew Hudson said this was another example of asbestos turning up in unexpected places.

“Finding asbestos in these sorts of vehicles wouldn’t have been anticipated once upon a time,” he said.

“There’s been heightened focus by the Border Force at the border particularly in the motor vehicle area, and this will probably lead to more significant border review of goods at the border.”

Freight & Trade Alliance director Paul Zalai said this issue would prompt the wider community to start gaining an understanding that there was a total asbestos ban, whether it was contained within casings or other forms of protection.

“Industry is engaging closely with the Australian Border Force and are working through methods to give assurances of asbestos free imports,” he said.

“This requires rigid testing regimes that can be completed locally or ideally, overseas as a part of the manufacturing process.”

The spokesperson for the DIBP told Lloyd’s List Australia the ABF had seen an increase in the number of asbestos detections during the past 12 months.

“This is a result of the ABF’s increased operational focus on detecting asbestos at the border with a substantial increase in the targeting and testing of high-risk goods,” they said.

“It is important to note that despite the significant increase in activity at the border to address the risk of asbestos, we have not seen a commensurate increase in the rate of detections.”

The ABF has made 55 detections of asbestos at the border to date in 2016-17. The majority of these have been in motor vehicle parts, brake pads and individual vintage vehicles.


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