The burden of occupational disease on current and past workers in Australia is immense. Although not well defined it is thought that deaths from occupational disease are many times higher than those of workplace fatalities (Kerr) with similar ratios applying to serious illness compared to injuries. This blight on our society is largely hidden (Grantham) due to long latency times and small numbers within individual workplaces, but it is real.
The AIOH Foundation has the singular purpose of promote the principles of occupational hygiene in the prevention and control of occupational diseases in Australian workplaces. Part of the rationale for the Foundation’s establishment by the AIOH is that the understanding of these critical principles of occupational hygiene, namely anticipation, recognition, evaluation and control of environmental workplace hazards is not well understood in many industries. Their widespread application will, therefore, result in great advances in the prevention and control of workplace diseases in Australia.
We also recognise that we are a part of the wider occupational health community including occupational physicians, ergonomists, toxicologists, safety engineers, safety professionals and health physicists and that it is critical that we build on our collaboration to reduce occupational disease.
Following the announcement of the opening of AIOH Foundation’s inaugural round of grant applications earlier in the year, the AIOH Foundation is very proud to announce the recipients of our first project grants. These grants have been awarded to organisations who submitted applications in which they described projects that will help achieve the Foundation’s purpose of promoting the principles of occupational hygiene in the prevention and control of occupational diseases in Australia workplaces. We look forward to partnering with these organisations over the next several months and seeing how these projects make a difference to Australian workers. The successful applicants were selected from a very strong field and we thank all applicants for their efforts. We also thank our generous donors who can now see the funds being put to work.
At the virtual presentation, Andrew Bennett (Chair), Philip Hibbs (Director) and Jaclyn Smith (Cancer Council WA Grants Coordinator)
Cancer Council WA
The funds will be used as part of the KNOW Workplace Cancer Program to develop, disseminate and evaluate a targeted and engaging digital silica dust campaign for workers in the Australian artificial stone industry. Artificial stone is an increasingly popular building material that is used primarily in the fabrication of kitchen and bathroom bench tops, but it’s high silica content has been responsible for the recent re-emergence of acute silicosis in Australia. An animated infographic will outline where silica dust can be encountered in the workplace, who is at risk and what controls are available to reduce the risks, to subsequently decrease exposure to silica dust and the risk of silica-related lung cancer for workers within the artificial stone industry in Australia.
At the virtual presentation, Andrew Bennett (Chair), Philip Hibbs (Director) and Mrs Jane Whitelaw, Dr Jennifer Hines and Ms Linda Apthorpe
University of Wollongong
The Bushfires during the Summer of 2019/20 highlighted the lack of an appropriate respiratory protection program for Rural Fire Service (RFS) firefighters. In July, the NSW RFS released a tender document for the provision of respiratory protective equipment (RPE), with half face P2 respirators required for most frontline operations. However, the efficacy of P2, or other RPE used as the main exposure control measure for RFS volunteers against bushfire emissions containing highly toxic and carcinogenic substances such as PAH’s and nanoparticles, has not been evaluated. Previous studies by The University of Wollongong have demonstrated the poor performance of some commonly used RPE against other thermally generated particles. This AIOH Foundation Grant will enable extension of this work to evaluate efficacy of RPE against bushfire emissions. Respirator filtration efficiency will be evaluated for inhalable particulates, PAH’s and nanoparticles. The findings of this study will inform the RFS and volunteers of the limitations in selection of respiratory protection to control exposure to bushfire emissions and enable better management of the health risk for RFS personnel. It will also contribute to manufacturers’ knowledge in the design and selection of respirator filters for use against bushfire emissions and the protection of human health, and will assist firefighters in the selection of fit-for-purpose respiratory protection.
At the virtual presentation, Andrew Bennett (Chair), Philip Hibbs (Director) and Elizabeth Beach, Department Head Behavioural Sciences National Acoustic Laboratories
National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL)
This project will apply an innovative ‘design thinking’ approach to create a new digital tool to assess hearing loss risk from noise and ototoxic exposures. The aim of the tool is to help occupational hygienists, audiologists, and others to estimate the risk associated with a wide range of workplace tasks and activities via an intuitive interface. NAL will consult with the intended audience to reach a thorough understanding of who will benefit from the tool, and how they are likely to use it. With this insight, NAL will produce a minimum viable product of the tool and observe how users interact with it in simulated real-world scenarios. This feedback will be used to refine the tool’s features, maximise its usefulness and optimize its user interface.
DONATE TO THE AIOH FOUNDATION
The Foundation is developing the main strategies which will be a mix of longer and shorter term projects. These may include:
Advocacy to better define the burden of occupational health on the Australian workforce;
Advocacy and support for education and training in specific industries where OH awareness may be low;
Support for specific research projects;
Develop affiliations with government agencies, industry bodies and unions to have greater reach into the community. This may include forming working groups and assisting specific areas in occupational environment that have little occupational hygiene and support. Examples of this include agriculture, some remote workplaces, and small to medium businesses.
At the end of 2019 the AIOH Foundation published a paper advocating for improved reporting of occupational disease deaths in Australia. It highlights the deficits in Australia’s occupational disease fatality reporting compared with other similar countries and outlines why this is preventing effective prevention measures. The paper can be found here.
The AIOH Foundation was established by the AIOH and is a registered and is a separate entity to the AIOH. The AIOH is currently the only Member of the Foundation, so this means that the AIOH Foundation is the AIOH member’s Foundation and we welcome your involvement.
Current board members are:
Previous board members include Charles Steer, Mel Windhust, Ryk Ecksteen and Caroline Langley.
The Foundation will be rigorous in its selection of areas to receive funding and will aim to use any money donated wisely. We aim to minimise administration costs and recognise the AIOH’s generous administrative and logistic support. Board Members will of course receive no remuneration. It is also important to note that the sum of money raised is not a measure of success, rather the advances that we can contribute to in the elimination of workplace illness.
Kerr, C et al, National Occupational Health and Safety Commission, 1996 ;
Reed, S et al, AIOH 2013
The AIOH Foundation Board
Andrew Bennett - Chair
Andrew is an experienced occupational hygienist based in Brisbane, who is passionate about improving health for Australian workers. Andrew’s current role involves leading the Brisbane-based Shell Health team to develop and deliver occupational health services to Shell’s assets and projects in Queensland. Prior to joining Shell he spent 10 years with BP Australia. He is a Full Member of the AIOH, a Certified Occupational Hygienist and has recently completed a Masters of International Public Health.
Philip is an occupational hygienist of 35+ years’ experience. He is a Fellow of the AIOH, a Certified Occupational Hygienist (COH)®, and a Full Member of the NZOHS. He was honoured to be invited to join the Board of the AIOH Foundation and sees this as an opportunity to raise the profile of occupational health issues in the Australian workforce and broader community.
He began his career with the Health Commission of Victoria in their Occupational Health Division. In 1994, he established Hibbs & Associates Pty Ltd, a Risk Management consulting practice delivering specialist consulting services in occupational hygiene, the management of hazardous building materials, and environmental management.
Robert holds post-graduate degrees in Analytical Chemistry and Toxicology and is a Certified Occupational Hygienist and Fellow of the AIOH. He has been a practising Occupational Hygienist since 1982 initially with Victorian government and more recently in consulting. Robert is Principal Occupational Hygienist with AMCOSH Pty Ltd, a private consulting firm based in Victoria, providing specialist OH services to a wide range of public and private sector clients. He is co-chair of the AIOH Exposure Standard Committee, a member of the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) Accreditation Advisory Committee for Life Sciences and represents the Institute on the Standards Australia CH-031 Methods for the Examination of Workplace Atmospheres Committee. Robert has been a member of conference committees for five AIOH annual conferences including as Scientific Chair for the Melbourne 2018 conference.
Robert received the AIOH’s Airmet Professional Development Award in 2002
Raelene is a Certified Occupational Hygienist with over 20 years’ experience in Oil and Gas. Raelene is currently the Health Manager and Lead Industrial Hygienist for Viva Energy Australia and is based in Victoria. Her portfolio extends to the management of the Viva Energy Health Team who ensure that workers are fit for duty and Occupational Hygiene support to all parts of their business.
Like all Occupational Hygienists, Raelene’s passion is to ensure that everyone can enjoy their retirement without an occupational illness especially in smaller business’ and young workers. She is very honoured to be on the AIOH Foundation Board and to be provided the opportunity to support the Australian community in the recognition of health risks and the implementation of appropriate controls.
Sally North (MAIOH) has qualifications in chemistry, occupational safety and health, business administration and occupational hygiene and toxicology. She has extensive experience as a work health and safety inspector, with a focus on occupational hygiene issues, and is currently a Director in a work health and safety regulatory agency. Sally leads a directorate of specialist inspectors focussing on occupational health and hygiene, human factors, ergonomics, plant and engineering as well as industry based work health and safety inspectors.
Sally has provided input into the development of national model legislation and codes, and works with other agencies on issues such as asbestos, flammable refrigerants and fitness for work.
Sally has experience as a school board member and is the past president of a not-for-profit association in the education sector.