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Unions Ramp Up Campaign for Safe Silica Standards

Today Safe Work Australia had the opportunity to save lives but failed to regulate in the interest of workers' health.

Safe Work Australia's decision to take 3 years to introduce a 0.05mg/m3 standard does nothing to stem the tsunami of silicosis currently sweeping Australian workplaces. This is a decision that flies in the face of recommendations from the Cancer Council, OHS experts in Australian Unions and international scientific research that called for an exposure standard of 0.02mg/m3.

Victorian Trades Hall Council has vowed to campaign for the Andrews Government to introduce standards of 0.02 in Victoria, thus making the state a world-leader on safety standards in this area.

Silica dust is becoming increasingly known as ‘the next asbestos’. It causes silicosis, a fatal lung disease linked with industrial practices like Caesar stone benchtop cutting. In 2011 almost 600,000 Australians were exposed to silica dust whilst working; it is estimated that 5758 of them will develop lung cancer over the course of their life.

Attributable quotes

This is a black day for stonemasons and all workers around the country exposed to silica dust. Safe Work Australia’s decision ignores international scientific evidence and Cancer Council recommendations. The 3 year implementation is particularly galling because workers are being exposed to deadly, toxic silica dust today.

“The Victorian Trades Hall Council will not give up the fight for a safe silica standard here in Victoria. We stand with all workers who face silica dust and will work with them, and with the Andrews Labor Government, to bring about urgent, life-saving reforms to the safety standards here in Victoria.”  - Dr Paul Sutton, OHS Lead Organiser, Victorian Trades Hall Council

Media contact: Suzi Taylor, VTHC communications, 0447 333 834

More on silicosis:

  • According to Cancer Council, about 600,000 Australian workers are exposed to silica dust at work each year, including miners, construction workers, farmers, engineers, bricklayers and road construction workers, as well as those working in demolition.
  • Cancer Council estimates that around 230 people each year develop lung cancer due to past exposure to silica dust at work. As this dust is 100 times smaller than a grain of sand, it is invisible, and can cause lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease.
  • Cancer Council’s silica dust factsheet: https://www.cancer.org.au/content/Preventing%20cancer/workplace/2017/SilicaDust_03112017_V6.pdf

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