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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By looking at the silicosis tree, we might miss the forest of dust

Rumours of a TV report on the increasing hazards of silicosis have floated around for a week or so.  On October 10 2018, the show appeared on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s 7.30 program.  But the story is much bigger than the ten minutes or so on that program.

The focus is understandably on silica but perhaps that is too specific.  Maybe the issue of dust, in general, needs more attention.

However,

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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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New laws help in the prevention of occupational asthma

Recently a public relations firm has been promoting a statement about workers’ compensation and occupational asthma in support of the Australasian Asthma Conference.  The statement was a timely reminder of the 2015 report – The Hidden Costs of Asthma.  These documents are aimed at the management of asthma rather than the prevention but, coincidentally, the Australian Government entered some legislative amendments in Parliament that will help with the prevention of this important condition.

The 

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