Lung Foundation Australia and Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) support the Victorian Government’s announcement to develop a task force to address the emerging silicosis crisis. The task force is a multi-layered approach that will support both employers and industry.
The government’s action plan includes:
- A state-wide ban on uncontrolled dry cutting of materials that contain crystalline silica dust
- Free health screening for Victoria’s 1400 stonemasons
- A new compliance code for businesses working with silica
- An awareness campaign to highlight the risks of working with engineered stone.
“We warmly welcome the Victorian Government’s dedicated response to what is a national crisis. This initiative is a great step forward in addressing the issue, and firmly places Victoria as leaders in this area alongside Queensland,” Lung Foundation Australia CEO Mark Brooke said.
“It is important, however, that we remain vigilant in addressing silicosis – and occupational lung disease – on a national level. We continue to see a fragmented state-by-state response, but the issue must remain partisan.”
TSANZ President Bruce Thompson said, “we have been advocating for an effective response to silicosis and dust diseases for several years now and it is heartening to see the Andrew’s Government take such a robust approach.”
“We welcome their commitment to a national approach to silicosis because this is a national crisis and requires coordinated national and state action to achieve a situation where no more Australian workers go to work and develop completely preventable lung disease through exposures to dust. ”
“Additional resources and increased investment for research and education will be a vital part of this approach.”
Occupational lung diseases are an under-recognised cause of respiratory ill health in Australia. These disorders are a preventable and treatable cause of much sickness, disability and death. In addition to the traditional “dust diseases”, occupational lung disease encompasses a wide spectrum of disorders.
More recently, an alarming emergence of silicosis cases – a lung disease caused by exposure to silica commonly found in stone bench tops – should make the issue of occupational lung disease a priority across all states and territories.
Lung Foundation Australia will be partnering with the Victorian Labor Government in August to hold a summit for GPs and medical specialists, and education seminars for those in the stonemasonry industry and health sector.
The Victorian Government’s announcement follows the Federal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt’s commitment to establish a national dust diseases taskforce and a national occupationally acquired respiratory disease surveillance and registry program to address the accelerated silicosis crisis facing the artificial stone benchtop industry.