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Railway workers have been exposed to potentially hazardous asbestos after the deadly dust was found in locomotives brought in from China.
The breach of a 10-year ban on the import of products containing the carcinogenic fibre is not the first incident of its kind.
Unions are now demanding tougher policing of Chinese imports, describing the current asbestos-free certificates as a farce.
Last year freight carrier SCT imported 10 locomotives made by China Southern Rail (CSR) to tow iron ore bound for China to port.
To comply with the decade-old Australian ban on asbestos imports, they were certified asbestos-free. However, this was not the case.
National secretary of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union Bob Nanva says maintenance workers raised concerns about the dust.
“We had our maintenance workers repairing a number of diesel engines,” he said.
“They identified a lot of white dust among those engines and asked the question as to whether or not that dust was safe.”
The workers’ concerns were justified. White asbestos – or chrysotile – was found throughout the locomotives, in insulation around the exhaust and muffler system, around coolant pipes and in the brake exhaust section near the roof of the driver’s cabin.
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