MPs voice concern over silicosis action plan

MPs voice concern over silicosis action plan

Federal MP and medical doctor, Michelle Ananda-Rajah, has brought the capacity of Safe Work Australia into question over a proposed ban on silica-containing engineered stone benchtops. She believes that under the watch of the national safety regulator, incidences of silicosis “exploded”.

Ananda-Rajah, who is an infectious diseases and general physician says that the six-month term granted to the workplace safety regulator to report back on a potential ban is “generous”, when taking into account the known risks associated with the product.

“It’s not like Safe Work haven’t been aware of this problem,” she said. “I would’ve preferred to see a report a lot sooner, maybe in the next quarter.”

Fellow Labor member, Tony Sheldon, said that the agreed-upon awareness campaign was “not a solution that can save lives now”.

“Six months is far too long to wait. Six months only allows more time for people to be hit with death sentences,” Sheldon said. “Urgent action is required, not further delay on this critical matter of life and death.”

Following the meeting of the state and territory ministers last week, which saw them consider a ban if no improvements are achieved by July 2024, Ananda-Rajah questioned whether Safe Work was the right body to implement the changes.

“The big problem I have with Safe Work Australia leading this is this catastrophe has happened under the watch of Safe Work. So I have to question … as a parliamentarian, I need to be confident that they are the best people tasked with carrying this out.

A spokesperson for Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke explained that the regulator would report back on the potential ban as soon as it was able to.

“Safe Work is also urgently finalising regulations banning uncontrolled dry cutting for jurisdictions that are yet to do so. We’re acting swiftly, speeding up the previous government’s timeline by more than a year,” the spokesperson said.

“But we have to get this right. The best way to get lasting action on this issue is by having the federal, state and territory governments moving forward together.”

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