New figures released by the Cancer Council as part of its National Safe Work Month safety campaign around crystalline silica exposure have revealed that more than half a million Australians are exposed to the Group 1 Carcinogen every year.
The Cancer Council has also released a range of resources to assist employers and reduce risk around crystalline silica.
Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan has called for greater awareness and responsibility when it comes to the dangers of silica dust.
“Long term and repeated high-level exposure to silica dust is responsible for around 230 cases of lung cancer in Australia each year, as well as some cases of silicosis, kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” Ms McMillan said.
“These are cancer cases that could have easily been prevented through eliminating or reducing exposure.
“We know that many tradespeople and construction workers often work with materials containing silica dust without proper protection in place, which is a very real concern.”
“Those most at-risk from silica dust inhalation are construction workers, miners, farmers and engineers but as silica is a surprisingly common product, anyone who works with materials containing it may be at risk, such as those working in demolition or manufacturing,” she said.
“If you are regularly working with, or employing people who work with, materials that release silica dust into the air when worked on, you are at risk, so you need to get informed today.”
“Employers are required by law to ensure the health and safety of their workers, but, within reason, individual workers are also responsible for ensuring their own protection,” Ms McMillan said.
“Proper protection is a lot more than just wearing a dust mask, which alone, provides little protection. It includes on-site ventilation, using specialised tools with appropriate blades and water suppression features and a range of other important safeguards, all based on the hierarchy of control.
“Cancer Council Queensland is here to assist all employers and workers to ensure they are protected from silica dust, with resources available on how to manage silica and other cancer risks in the workplace.”
The free silica resources are available via Cancer Council Queensland’s QUEST program at quest.org.au.