AWU welcomes Labor’s National Conference commitment on silicosis epidemic

Australian Workers' Union

The Australian Workers’ Union applauds the Australian Labor Party for committing to action to battle the silicosis epidemic at its National Conference.

Each year 600,000 Australian workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica (silica) dust. When inhaled silica dust can cause a variety of lung diseases including silicosis, dubbed as the new asbestosis. It can also cause kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

At its 2021 National Conference, the ALP today announced it will form a national response to address silicosis and other occupational lung diseases, which will include:

  • The development and implementation of a nationally consistent regulation outlining minimum safety benchmarks for application across all industries where workers are exposed to silica dust
  • Comprehensive health monitoring program during and after employment to assist in identifying the onset of any dust-related disease
  • A dust register for all diagnosed cases of occupational lung disease
  • Support (financial and psychological) for workers (and their families) diagnosed with occupational lung disease and who are struggling to return to work and/or adjusting to life with the devastating impact of their lung disease

Acting AWU National Secretary Misha Zelinsky said the Labor Party has shown leadership while the Federal Government refuses to act.

“Silica dust kills and we have been fighting for tougher national regulations with minimum benchmarks that protect all workers for years,” Mr Zelinsky said.

“The exposure to silica dust can be minimised at work but our current laws are a disgrace and workers’ lives are being put at unnecessary risk.

“Our safety standards and their enforcement in Australia are currently shameful. Workers in jurisdictions across the world, including the US and Mexico, have stronger protection from silica dust than Australians.

“I applaud the Labor Party for committing to action to protect Australian workers and to help those whose lives have been irreversibly changed by this cruel and preventable disease.”

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