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High risk workers say bosses fail to give asbestos warnings, according to new research

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A worrying number of Australian workers who face higher risks of asbestos exposure do not believe their bosses adequately warn them of the potential dangers, according to new research.

The national survey commissioned by Slater and Gordon of more than 2,000 workers found that just one fifth (21 per cent) across all industries had been warned by their employers about the potential of asbestos in the workplace.

Alarmingly, 71 per cent of manual workers and 68 per cent of manufacturing workers said their bosses had never spoken to them about the threat of asbestos exposure at work.

Slater and Gordon Asbestos National Practice Group Leader Margaret Kent said employers had a duty to warn workers of the potential risk of asbestos in the workplace.

“Asbestos use was banned in Australia more than a decade ago, but that doesn’t mean the risk of exposure has disappeared with it,”

“Many Australian workplaces still contain asbestos as does some equipment used by workers."  Ms Kent said.

“Products imported from overseas that contain asbestos are also finding their way into Australia illegally, putting unsuspecting workers at further risk of exposure.”

Ms Kent said every year hundreds of Australian workers are diagnosed and die from asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma and asbestosis.

“Most Australians are aware of the dangers of asbestos through media reports and I believe unions and asbestos community groups do a great job in raising awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure.

“Ultimately, legal responsibility for the management of asbestos in the workplace - whether that’s a factory or an office - lies with employers.

“Workers need to know about asbestos, where it could be located in a workplace, what to do if they come across it and how to avoid being exposed.