New fears on asbestos

YOUNG tradies are working at building sites with little or no knowledge about asbestos, putting themselves and others at risk of exposure to the deadly product.

The Asbestos Free Tasmania Foundation offered awareness training across the state and found that some trade workers, including electricians and plumbers, could not identify products that contained asbestos.

Apprentices were also being forced to continue working with asbestos products because tasks were considered small, or because they were unable to voice their concerns about the presence of asbestos for fear of being sacked.

Asbestos disease sufferer Laurie Appleby ran the foundation's training in the North and North-West and said many workers were unaware of the dangers, and would drill holes into roof eaves or electric switchboards, risking their health.

"If they are out on a site and they do find it in the switchboard, property owners might say 'that is a small job, go ahead and don't worry about it'," Mr Appleby said.

"Workers are frightened that if they do speak up, they will lose their job.

"The problem is it only takes one fibre. It might turn into something and it might not but it is like Russian roulette. How much of a gamble do you want to take?"

Asbestos Free Tasmania Foundation president Simon Cocker said understanding about the dangers had increased but there was a need to do more to increase public safety.

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