The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) is calling for mandatory national asbestos training for apprentices and tradies.
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It comes after a Curtin University study found that three out of four tradespeople cannot identify asbestos in a workplace.

"Aussie tradies are at great risk from exposure to asbestos that remains in buildings in Australia, as well as from illegal imports," CFMEU national construction secretary, Dave Noonan, said.

"Asbestos has been banned for some time in Australia, but it's still being imported illegally."

Last week on a building site at the Sunshine Coast Plaza project in Queensland, soil containing asbestos was exposed during excavation works, and untrained workers were unaware of its presence. However, some of the workers on the site had been trained in asbestos, identified it, and the work was halted - potentially saving lives.

"The fact that this incident occurred on a $400 million site, managed by Lend Lease, shows that the problem is widespread," Noonan said.

"This study highlights a disturbing lack of awareness about asbestos among tradespeople.

"Asbestos is deadly. Any exposure to asbestos fibres could cause mesothelioma or other asbestos related diseases.

"It's time for state and federal governments and the sector to tackle the lack of regulation in the building industry which is putting lives at risk - from the spread of highly flammable cladding in Australian buildings, and the deadly risk of asbestos exposure.

"We need national, mandatory training for all apprentices to make them aware of the dangers and safe handling of asbestos. The CFMEU stands ready to work with the industry and all governments to make this happen."