The NSW Opposition today released its silicosis policy which outlines the measures a NSW Labor government will undertake to improve safety for those working with engineered stone and address the silicosis epidemic affecting that industry.
Maurice Blackburn Principal, Jonathan Walsh says Labor’s proposed immediate ban on dry cutting engineered stone combined with the adoption of an acceptable dust exposure standard of 0.02mg/m3 is a major step forward in the protection of workers.
“This would at long last elevate NSW to a world leading safety standard alongside the United States.
“Significantly, this policy also recognises the importance of employers providing their workers with the best personal protection equipment in reducing dangerous silica dust exposure,” Mr Walsh said.
Mr Walsh says NSW Labor’s plan to introduce mandatory health checks carried out by medical specialists for all those exposed to silica dust is imperative to managing the onset of silicosis in workers.
“The earlier silicosis is diagnosed, the quicker we can move to provide medical treatment and alternative employment for those workers which will reduce the likelihood of that disease becoming terminal,” Mr Walsh said.
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers also applauded Labor’s plan to introduce a Dust Lung Disease Register which will require health professionals to notify authorities when they make a diagnosis of a lung disease caused by workplace exposure, such as silicosis or mesothelioma.
“A register will help policy makers detect trends in the various industries, enabling them to respond quickly and knowledgeably to any changes,” Mr Walsh said.
“We have long called on the Federal Government to set up its own register which collects all this type of data from each of the states so there can be a consistent national approach to dangerous work practices.”
“I also think NSW Labor’s proposal to require all businesses working with engineered stone to be registered with SafeWork NSW is to be applauded and should be replicated around the country,” Mr Walsh said.
“In addition, it’s noteworthy that NSW Labor has recognised the dangers facing workers involved in tunnel construction in the sandstone of NSW because that is the next likely source of silica-related disease,” Mr Walsh said.
“Silicosis is fast becoming an industrial health crisis comparable to that associated with asbestos, Mr Walsh said.
“NSW has long lagged behind Queensland and Victoria in recognising this and acting with purpose and speed to protect these workers.
“No-one should have to risk losing their life to a preventable disease by simply turning up to work,” Mr Walsh said.
“NSW Labor’s silicosis policy is the most comprehensive to date and will no doubt save many lives.”
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