ACT Construction Workers years of Asbestos Exposure

Yet another asbestos related scandal has hit the news, this time relating to Mr Fluffy Asbestos used extensively in housing in the seventies.

According to reports a former electrician who worked in Canberra in the residential construction sector in the 1970s has raised concerns that hundreds of tradies may have been unexpectedly and unknowingly exposed to asbestos from this product (Mr Fluffy). The ACT CFMEU is afraid that this product may still present a threat to workers who enter homes and commercial buildings today. They have demanded an audit to determine the extent of the contamination and the risk to current workers.

This article from explains:

And the ACT CFMEU says asbestos -including the ”fairy floss” amosite insulation – was a daily concern for workers in the ACT going into houses and commercial buildings.

Secretary Dean Hall has called for an audit to be undertaken on all commercial premises built before 2003 to confirm that the required asbestos management plan has been completed.

The Canberra Times revealed on Thursday that while the ACT government was spending $2 million deconstructing a home in Downer, there had been no investigation into the commercial buildings that could still contain the dangerous substance. Non-residential buildings were not surveyed along with houses built before 1980 under the loose-fill asbestos removal program carried out by the Commonwealth then ACT governments.

Mr Hall said while experienced builders and tradespeople knew about the general risk of asbestos, the union was finding that younger workers, commonly apprentices, were not aware of the dangers.

But he said the risk was potentially in every building.

”On a daily basis we have reports of people who have inadvertently exposed asbestos,” he said.

Read more at:

The CFMEU has called for an audit to be conducted on buildings erected after 2003, which is the year that the deadly substance was banned in Australia. Amosite asbestos is more commonly referred to as “brown” asbestos and sometimes “grey” asbestos. This form of asbestos was found and is mined in South Africa and is considered to be one of the more hazardous forms of the material, second only to “blue” asbestos.

According to a veteran of the construction industry, Sydney resident Arthur Carruthers, it was common for tradies to crawl into roof spaces and walk through loose infill installation in many homes in Sydney without taking any precautions against this hazard.

He also recalls removing roof tiles to allow light to enter the work area where millions of fibres could be seen in the light shaft according to Carruthers. According to Carruthers it was common knowledge that insulation was composed of asbestos although they weren’t fully aware of the risks they were placing themselves in.

Only in the early eighties was the use of amosite asbestos banned in Oz and only 8 years later did the Commonwealth conduct its asbestos survey in ACT.


Picture of Amosite Asbestos shows how the fibres look, thin threads of deadly fibres.




ACT Builder in Hot Water after Exposing Family to Asbestos

A builder in The ACT may face prosecution for exposing a family to potentially deadly asbestos fibres, according to WorkSafe ACT who are currently investigating the incident.

The findings of a WorkSafe investigation will determine whether the builder will face prosecution after the builder’s workers disturbed asbestos containing materials while renovating the family’s bathroom. The family who was occupying the house at the time were unaware that they were being placed at risk until they were alerted by a neighbour. The young family also have 2 young children that were also exposed.

This post from explains what happened:

worksafe-actThe exposure happened when the builder used an angle grinder to cut through asbestos sheeting and asbestos fibres spread through the house. The family were not aware of the danger but were warned by a neighbour who then called WorkSafe.

The business licence of the builder could be withdrawn if the ACT government finds that the employees of the builder worked with the asbestos without permission.


This incident although isolated, reflects badly on the entire building industry. That is why ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe has called for the introduction of on the spot fines (of up to $5000) for all builders that are guilty of disposing of asbestos illegally. This incident in particular is an example of the kind of potentially fatal breaches of Work Health and Safety Act, which according to The Commissioner warrants serious action.

As the post on goes on to explain asbestos cannot just be dumped by builders like they would other materials,

A spokesperson for the ACT Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate stated that all work with asbestos must be completed by people that have the appropriate licence, with an active building approval and an asbestos control plan in place which was not the case with the builder at the centre of the investigation

Read the full article at

Builders have a responsibility to their workers, clients and the community to ensure that they are not placing them at risk of asbestos exposure and most importantly that they are disposing of asbestos in a safe and legal manner because once asbestos fibres are breathed in, they may get trapped in the lungs and remain there for a long time. Over time, these fibres can accumulate and cause scarring and inflammation, which can affect breathing and lead to serious health problems leading to death.

Studies have shown that exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma which is a relatively rare cancer of the thin membranes that line the chest and abdomen.

Although rare, mesothelioma is the most common form of cancer associated with asbestos exposure and statistics show that Australia has the highest number of people suffering from Mesothelioma in the world.  In addition to lung cancer and mesothelioma, some studies have suggested an association between asbestos exposure and gastrointestinal and colorectal cancers, as well as an elevated risk for cancers of the throat, kidney, oesophagus and gallbladder.

In addition to Mesothelioma asbestos exposure can cause asbestosis. This is an inflammatory disease affecting the lungs that can result in a number of symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath and permanent lung damage.

Now in addition to facing prosecution builders could also face on-the-spot fines in WorkSafe Commissioner, Mark McCabe gets his way.



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