Life-saving dust laws pass NSW parliament

The process of tracking, responding to and preventing deadly occupational dust diseases such as silicosis and asbestos has been vastly strengthened following the passage of new laws through the NSW Parliament.

Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation Kevin Anderson said that under changes to the Work Health and Safety Amendment (Information Exchange) Bill silicosis, asbestos and mesothelioma will now be notifiable diseases and if acquired through workplace exposure they will be placed on a new Dust Diseases Register.

“These new laws will save lives,” Mr Anderson said.

“Making silicosis, asbestos and mesothelioma notifiable diseases is a huge step in our journey to stamp out workplace deaths by dust exposure.

“Under the changes, these occupational dust diseases become a scheduled medical condition, requiring our doctors and nurses to notify NSW Health of identified cases, who in turn will provide this information to SafeWork NSW.

“Once SafeWork NSW has these notifications our inspectors can target their compliance and enforcement efforts based on each diagnosed individual’s current or previous workplaces and ultimately prevent further cases.

“Over the past 12 months, 344 people were reported to have been diagnosed with an asbestos related disease and more than 100 with silicosis. Where workplace exposure is the cause, I want these numbers to head towards zero.

“I want to thank the Opposition and the cross-bench for working with us on this legislation to eradicate illness, injury and death caused by occupational dust and keep our workers safe.”

Mr Anderson said the Dust Diseases Register will monitor and analyse the incidence of dust diseases that are notified by NSW Health to SafeWork NSW.

“The NSW Government is also set to release the first strategy in NSW’s history to protect workers from exposure to occupational dusts,” Mr Anderson said.

“A fundamental part of the NSW Dust Strategy 2020-2022 will be the requirement for SafeWork NSW to provide annual reports on the prevalence of dust diseases to test the effectiveness of the strategy, and ensure transparency by requiring these reports to be published and accessible to the public.”

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