Keep talking and making submissions – what to ask about dust

Government attention on the risks of silicosis, especially those related to engineered stone, continues to increase. Australia has established a National Dust Disease Taskforce to investigate the risks and to make recommendations to the government at the end of 2020. A national investigation is warranted but occupational health and safety (OHS) is regulated at State level so it could be many years until safety improves on this matter, if the States wait for the Taskforce’s final report.

Luckily, the debate on silicosis risks continue in various Parliaments and the Taskforce is seeking submissions.

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Time to ban synthetic stone

Professor Malcolm Sim of Monash University spoke at the 2019 National Work Health and Safety Colloquium on an issue that he never imagined he would be speaking of, at his age, silicosis.

As it is in several countries, the emergence of silicosis related to synthetic stone is gradually getting the attention of governments as more, and younger, workers are starting to die from this aggressive occupational disease. Professor Sim outlined the risk of handling this new type of stone by asking:

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Grab bag of OHS issues – politics, dust, occupational violence and international HR

Workforce lifecycle framework

Over the last week or so, as the Australian Parliament resumes operating, the Liberal/National Government is trying to reduce the influence of “militant” unions through its “Ensuring Integrity” Bill but opponents say this may affect the management of occupational health and safety (OHS).


The Federal Department of Health has established a National Dust Disease
Taskforce
to develop a national approach to the prevention, early identification, control and management of dust diseases in Australia largely, it seems in response to silicosis but Black Lung had to have some influence.


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Dust clouds on kitchen benchtops

The Victorian Premier, the Minister for Workplace Safety, Dr Ryan Hoy and others at the silicosis announcement

The Victorian Government has announced that various safety initiatives are being taken on the silicosis risks associated with products described as synthetic stone. This initiative is an important first step in reducing the exposure of workers to silicosis but there are some curiosities in the announcement and WorkSafe Victoria’s accompanying Information Sheet.

The core elements of the government’s action are:

  • “A state-wide ban on uncontrolled dry cutting of materials that contain crystalline silica dust
  • Free health screening for Victoria’s 1400 stonemasons
  • A tough new compliance code for businesses working with silica
  • An awareness campaign to highlight the risks of working with engineered stone”.
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Safe Work Australia at Senate Estimates

Free Access

During April 2019 Executives from Safe Work Australia (SWA) attended the Senate Estimates hearings as usual. This current session was a little different as a General Election was imminent and Industrial Manslaughter laws have increased focus on occupational health and safety (OHS) organisations and regulators. Also the Committee included Senator Gavin Marshall who, late last year, was the Chair of the committee which conducted an inquiry into industrial deaths.

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