Political tennis on silicosis begins

Pictured from Dr Ryan Hoy’s ANZSOM presentation

It was reported on October 11 2018 that Australia’s Health Minister, Greg Hunt, has called for:

“… state workplace regulators to immediately investigate risks to the health of stonemasons, and stop unsafe work practices.”

Some reports have said that a statement was issued:

“Mr Hunt issued a statement saying he and the Chief Medical Officer would raise the issue at a health COAG meeting in Adelaide on Friday. He said the meeting would be asked to consider whether a national dust diseases register should be developed.”

However the Minister’s Office has advised SafetyAtWorkBlog that no formal statement has been made.  This makes it a bit hard to determine what exactly he is asking for on the prevention of silicosis but the States have begun to respond.

The Victorian Minister for Health,

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“We cannot buy the health of people with money”

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Source: Melody Kemp

By Melody Kemp

Walking my dog along the Mekong in Vientiane, new piles of building rubble litter the river bank. The capital has long had a problem with plastic waste, but as unbridled wealth spreads and humble buildings are replaced by garish McMansions, building rubble is turning up in the general detritus. Among the bricks was what looked like the residue of shattered Asbestos Cement sheets; but without necessary skill and a microscope how could anyone tell?

A Vietnamese trader arrives. He rifles through the remains, takes a few of the bigger bits, tosses them in the trailer behind his bike and leaves with a nod.  Later, in the main street outside a hardware shop, a large box of mixed waste lies waiting for collection.  Laos do not separate their waste at source and while there may be provisions for hazardous waste, procedures are not observed. Out of date drugs, toxic chemicals, poohy nappies are tossed into or along the river; are burned or go into general land fill sites. Or are scavenged.

Those few minutes epitomised some of the social/behavioural difficulties of controlling hazardous materials in any of the Mekong nations.  Things are changing thanks to the efforts of ex-ILO Technical Adviser Phillip HazeltonContinue reading ““We cannot buy the health of people with money””

The evidence on occupational lung diseases remains inadequate

Workplace injury statistics are always less than reality as they are based on the number of workers’ compensation claims lodged with occupational health and safety (OHS) regulators or insurance agents.  The nature of occupational illnesses is that there may be many years before their presence is physically identified making them more contestable by insurers and less likely to appear in compensation data.  The frustration with this lack of data was voiced on November 13 2017 in an article in the Medical Journal of Australia (not publicly available).

A summary of the research article includes this alarming statistic:

“Occupational exposures are an important determinant of respiratory health. International estimates note that about 15% of adult-onset asthma, 15% of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 10–30% of lung cancer may be attributable to hazardous occupational exposures.”

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Asbestos – out of sight but not out of mind in Asia

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By Melody Kemp

Hmong uplander with child. Source: Melody Kemp

Asbestos resembles polio. Just when you think it’s beaten, it returns like some ghoul. If you think this is overly dramatic, last year Laos was struck by a polio outbreak. This year we learned that Laos now ranks amongst the globe’s major importers of asbestos. And it’s driven by cynical market forces targeting poorer nations, inadvertently promoted by international aid. Continue reading “Asbestos – out of sight but not out of mind in Asia”

Two old SafetyAtWork podcasts remain relevant

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Over the Christmas break I was cleaning out some files and found some old SafetyAtWork podcast files that used to be on iTunes around a decade ago.  The information and perspectives remain important and to preserve the files I have uploaded them to SoundCloud.

One is an interview with Professor Michael Quinlan shortly after the Beaconsfield mine inquiry.  The other is a presentation to the Central Safety Group by freelance journalist Gideon Haigh about the corporate approach to asbestos and compensation off the back of the publication of his Asbestos House book.

More will be posted over the next few weeks.

Kevin Jones