Better early diagnosis and treatment for people working with engineered stone

By Simon Stokes

The McGowan Government has just announced that some important change to the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations will come into effect today.

These changes are a direct result of campaigning by the CFMEU to increase legal protections for workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica in the engineered stone industry.

Employers will now be required to provide regular low-dose high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) scans instead of just a chest x-ray.

HRCT scans are far better than a chest X-rays in identifying signs of silicosis, so this will help detect problems earlier and result in better and earlier interventions to protect worker’s lungs.

This comes on top of the McGowan Government’s decision to halve the workplace exposure standard for respirable crystalline silica to further protect workers.

Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston believes that these amendments to workplace safety laws will assist in the early detection or prevention of this horrible and debilitating illness.

“There’s been a lot of concern about the number of silicosis cases in the Eastern States and, although we’ve seen relatively few cases in WA, it’s appropriate we take action to minimise the risks for workers.”

CFMEU WA State Secretary Mick Buchan welcomed the announcement but said there was still more to be done across the whole industry to keep workers safe.

“We’re finally seeing good policy and legislation in WA to help protect workers from silicosis and I personally want to commend Mark McGowan and Bill Johnston for their commitment to this issue. But we believe there’s still a gap in the systems that are supposed to protect the lungs of construction workers as there is no proper independent monitoring or policing of dust levels in most workplaces.”

“Reducing the silica exposure standards does absolutely nothing unless someone is out there actually measuring levels and holding people to account if they exceed those standards.”

“So we’ll keep fighting until we see independent monitoring and prosecution for those who fail to comply.”