AWU calls on NSW Government to provide better protections for all workers in dust-prone industries

AWU calls on NSW Government to provide better protections for all workers in dust-prone industries

The Australian Workers Union is demanding further action from the NSW Government on its Dust Diseases Scheme, expressing that they would like the scheme to cover all dust-prone sectors.

The union has made a submission to the NSW Legislative Council Review Standing Committee on Law and Justice and says that the country is facing an impending epidemic of silicosis.

The union was involved in the National Dust Diseases Taskforce last year, and within that task force, it was accepted that the AWU’s evidence that the risks associated with silica dust are not confined to the engineered-stone industry. The task force recommended that systemic changes be made to improve the health of all the workers who are involved in dust-generating industries.

AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton said that “The incidence of silicosis in industries outside the engineered stone bench-top industry has extraordinarily bad potential, as there are approximately 600,000 Australian workers currently exposed to silica dust.”

“Stonemasons – the sole target of this inquiry – make up 4400, or less than one per cent, of that total.

“Workers exposed to silica dust in tunnelling, quarrying, cement work, mining, construction, and other industries must be given equal consideration for the purpose of this review and any subsequent recommendations.”

“We will see a tsunami of silicosis in the coming years and decades if swift preventative, regulatory and compensatory measures are not quickly adopted by governments to protect workers exposed to silica dust.”

The union is calling for a stronger regulatory framework that will include workers in more industries and appropriate workers’ compensation laws in line with those industries.

The union has called for the Perrottet government to look to the protections implemented by the Victorian government, which provides protection for all workers involved in high-risk silica work. It is also calling for clear and tough penalties for breaches of the minimum safety benchmarks.

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