AIOH Media Release: No Dust Exposure = No Dust Disease
02 August 2019
Australians have been shocked recently by images in the media of stone masons dying from silicosis. Exposures to respirable silica continue to exceed the regulated limits and go unrecognised until the worker’s health is permanently damaged.
Dr Julia Norris, President of the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists, Inc. (AIOH) describes what the AIOH is doing about it.
The Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists, Inc. (AIOH) has a very clear vision: Our vision is for a healthy workplace. Our members are dedicated to protecting worker health. To this end, in November 2018, the AIOH committed to supporting and funding an initiative called Breathe Freely Australia. This is an education and awareness program raising awareness of airborne hazards within dusty industries and providing crucial information on the control of these hazards to the betterment of worker health.
Last month, I launched the Breathe Freely Australia roadshows. Next month, there are 3 events to be held in Queensland. More will follow. See www.breathefreelyaustralia.org.au for further details. The AIOH, in collaboration with state regulators, relevant industry sectors and employee groups will bring Breathe Freely Australia to major cities and regional areas across Australia.
The vital importance of programs like Breathe Freely Australia lies in preventing lung diseases from workplace exposure to dusts in the coal mining and stone industries. The Breathe Freely Australia Program and its resources are available for free to inform employers and workers about the prevention of respiratory disease and to aid better decisions on worker health.
Occupational Hygienists measure airborne dust levels in workplaces, assess the concentration against workplace exposure standards and then determine the most effective controls. Given our experience, the AIOH has taken a close professional interest in the national review of workplace exposure standards by Safe Work Australia. The AIOH carefully considered and reviewed draft WESs issued for public comment, and our made submissions, based on the best available scientific information.
There are misconceptions in some parts of the community that lowering the legal exposure standard will fix the excessive exposures and protect workers.
However, the only way to prevent disease is to prevent exposure by effective controls.
Simply lowering the exposure standard does not change health outcomes, particularly when many workplaces do not even comply with current legislation... In this regard, the AIOH believe the WHS regulators should be enforcing their own regulations relating to dust far more vigorously.
The AIOH and its volunteer Council are dedicated to taking action that will help prevent further disease in the workplace and ultimately save lives.
In line with our mission, the AIOH is actively focused on education, awareness and the prevention of unacceptable workplace exposures.
The most effective means to eliminate occupational disease is to stop excessive exposures through methods such as wet cutting, extraction ventilation and a proper Respiratory Protection Equipment programs.
In short, NO dust exposure = NO disease.
For further information on the Breathe Freely Australia Program or the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists visit www.aioh.org.au.