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More jails pose asbestos risk
Asbestos risk: Bandyup prison. Picture: Sharon Smith/The West Australian

All but four of WA's 16 prisons have been identified as having some form of asbestos contamination, with two facilities rated as high-risk, it has emerged.

After revelations last month that fixing asbestos contamination at Hakea Prison would cost taxpayers $2.5 million, the Department of Corrective Services has confirmed a further 11 prisons have asbestos-containing materials or suspected contamination "to some degree".

Pardelup Prison Farm, near Mt Barker, and Roebourne Prison have a high-risk rating.

The other jails with asbestos - Bandyup, Bunbury, Wooroloo, Karnet, Albany, Broome, Eastern Goldfields, Greenough and Walpole Work Camp - are medium to low-risk.

The department said remediation work at the two high-risk jails was scheduled to be done by the end of this month.

The work included the removal of asbestos rather than sealing and capsulation.

It said an asbestos exposure register set up in 2009 had 20 reports "from people who had potentially been exposed to asbestos".

When details emerged last month of the asbestos exposure at Hakea, including the discovery of friable asbestos in the ceiling spaces of the blocks inspected, the Asbestos Diseases Society called for the affected blocks to be closed immediately.

Shadow corrective services minister Paul Papalia said a comprehensive register was needed to deal with the "threat of asbestos in the older buildings".

"Not just of people who have gone into roof spaces but, in conjunction with experts in the field, a register that is comprehensive in the event a prison officer, a prisoner or staff member is exposed and later in life succumbs to the illness," he said.

Mr Papalia called for health checks for prison officers and prisoners exposed or potentially exposed to asbestos.

However, the department said this was not recommended in the current code of practice.

Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis said that work was done under strict guidelines and precautions taken to ensure the safety of staff and prisoners.

"I'm committed to ensuring that works are carried out in accordance with WorkSafe's directions," he said.