Andrews Govt Launches Comprehensive Action Plan Against Silica Dust

Andrews Govt Launches Comprehensive Action Plan Against Silica Dust

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews

Protecting Victorian Workers From Deadly Silica Dust

Victor P Taffa

Andrews Government will launch an unprecedented compliance and enforcement blitz targeting over 300 high-risk workplaces focusing on stonemasonry workshops to prevent the deadly lung disease silicosis.

“Victorians have a right to expect their work won’t kill them that’s why we’re doing all we can to make sure workers go home safe to their families.” Premier Daniel Andrews said.

Comprehensive action plan, unveiled by Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Workplace Safety Jill Hennessy today, includes:

  • A state-wide ban on uncontrolled dry cutting of materials that contain crystalline silica dust
  • Free health screening for Victoria’s 1,400 stonemasons
  • A tough new compliance code for businesses working with silica
  • An awareness campaign to highlight the risks of working with engineered stone.

“Silicosis has had a debilitating effect on too many tradies in their prime our ban on dry cutting and an unprecedented enforcement blitz will help protect Victorian workers.” Minister for Workplace Safety Jill Hennessy said.

Silica dust is a hazardous substance impacting workers in construction, mining and quarrying. Stonemasons are at higher risk due to the cutting and polishing of artificial stone benchtops which contain high concentrations of silica.

Banning dry cutting of materials containing crystalline silica will dramatically reduce the risk of workers developing silicosis as wet cutting reduces the likelihood of harmful exposure to silica dust.

Andrews Government is also leading a push to develop a national silicosis strategy and reduce the Australian silica workplace exposure standard from 0.1 mg/m3 to 0.02 mg/m3 over an 8-hour day.

“Accelerated silicosis can have significant health implications and can be fatal. Nobody should have their health put at risk just by going to work.” Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos said.

Andrews Government will also hold a summit for GP’s and medical specialists, and education seminars for those in the stonemasonry industry and health sector in August.

Silicosis is a proclaimed disease, meaning workers or dependents of a worker with silicosis are entitled to compensation without having to prove that work contributed to the disease. WorkSafe received 28 claims for silica-related conditions in 2018 and 15 workers have died from the disease since 1985.

Andrews Government has also requested WorkSafe examine ways for improving access to compensation for workers with silicosis, including expediting compensation claims for lost wages and pain and suffering.

WorkSafe will also review the list of proclaimed diseases for stonemasons and those working with engineered stone with a view to adding lung cancer and auto-immune diseases that can occur from silica exposure.