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.
In August 2019, lawyer and author Michael Tooma (pictured right) was the keynote speaker at the 2019 National Work Health and Safety Colloquium ostensibly talking about his May 2019 presentation to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). It was an important presentation of the paper he wrote is important. However, it was in the questions afterwards, on Industrial Manslaughter laws and accountability, where Tooma was most passionate and personal.
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:
Queensland is undertaking a “safety reset” following several recent deaths in the mining and quarry industry. This government initiative has the backing of the resources sector and has collated a good amount of safety resources in support of what is a mandatory exercise.
What is a little different in this initiative is that it reinforces that the primary responsibility for occupational health and safety (OHS) rests with the employers and company owners. In the past, government initiatives have tended to take on the responsibility for the OHS changes or imply that it is the government’s job to fix the situation and the relative safety cultures, as if it was government (in)activity that caused the problem.
There are a few occupational health and safety (OHS) matters in Australia that happened in the last week that are of note. SafetyAtWorkBlog has put together a quick list of those matters of interest.
Big Mental Health Challenge
“The Australian Capital Territory has appointed its first “dedicated psychological health officer [who] will equip workplaces with the tools and resources needed to support the social and emotional wellbeing of working Canberrans.
The psychological health officer will provide employees, managers and supervisors with support such as information sessions, accessible resources and training programs. WorkSafe ACT inspectors will also receive training and access to ongoing mentoring for responding to psychological hazards.”