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Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union WA state secretary Steve McCartney said mining companies choosing to "save a buck" by importing rail carriages and parts from overseas were putting workers at risk.
His comments come after Worksafe released a warning to the industry that asbestos had been found in China-imported rail carriage friction wear plates purchased between 2007 and 2014 - it's unclear how many carriages are affected.
"They were thought to be asbestos-free and the wear plates have not needed replacing since the carriages were acquired," Worksafe's warning read.
"Testing by a National Association of Testing Authorities accredited laboratory in Australia has found that the wear plates contain chrysotile (white) asbestos."
It is not the first time a product falsely claiming to be asbestos-free has gone undetected in WA.
Asbestos sheeting was discovered in the roof panels at the new $1.2 billion Perth Children's Hospital in 2016.
The panels were falsely signed-off as compliant with Australian building standards but were later replaced by building contractor John Holland.
Mr McCartney said he had been lobbying the state government to have more manufacturing done locally to ensure compliance.
"If they can't get the quality and control right out of China and India, it's not a safe working environment for workers," he said.
"I can guarantee you if it was made in Australia there would be so much rigour it would never happen."
He said Western Australia had nearly 80,000 rail carriages in the north-west servicing the state's mining industry.
Each carriage has friction wear plates which require maintenance.
"They are inspected often and changed when required, the inspection alone exposes workers," he said.
Worksafe has advised businesses that own or operate rail carriages to have their wear plates tested for the presence of asbestos.
It also recommended companies have products independently tested for asbestos before being shipped to Australia.
In 2016-17, Worksafe received more than 1000 asbestos-related enquiries and issued 71 notices.
Asbestos was banned in Australia in 2003.
This article first appeared on www.watoday.com.au
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