QLD looks to knock out silicosis

Peabody's Wilpinjong mine.

WorkCover Queensland has engaged Monash University and the University of Illinois to research best practices that support workers diagnosed with silicosis.

The lung disease is caused by breathing silica, a mineral that is part of sand, rock, and mineral ores.

Professor Malcolm Sim from Monash University and Professor Bob Cohen from the University of Illinois will research the treatment, rehabilitation and retraining options that are available to improve workers’ capacity to work.

The research will also study the mental health impact and issues preventing a return to work and ensuring a safe work environment to protect the long-term health of workers.

Minister for Industrial Relations Grace Grace said both teams brought experience in dust diseases management and best practices for return to work.

“Queensland is leading the nation in responding to the threat of silicosis,” Grace said.

“In September 2018 when the government received advice on the troubling spike in cases of silicosis in the engineered stone benchtop fabrication industry, it acted immediately, issuing a public alert about the risks of engineered stone and reminded industry of the prohibition on uncontrolled dry cutting of this stone.”

According to Grace, audits have been conducted on engineered stone benchtop fabricators in Queensland, health screening has been arranged for 1023 workers, forums for workers, employers and the medical community have been held, and counselling has been arranged workers and their families.

“We have also established an expert medical working group to develop clinical guidance and an Australian-first Dust Lung Disease register, and a new Code of Practice is close to finalisation,” Grace said.

WorkCover CEO Bruce Watson said all workers’ compensation schemes would benefit from greater knowledge about best practice strategies to support workers.

“WorkCover Queensland is committed to providing the best possible support to Queensland workers who are diagnosed with dust diseases and is now supporting more than 168 workers who have been diagnosed with silicosis or progressive massive fibrosis,” Watson said.

“This research will help continue to improve the support we provide, based on the latest research about best practice strategies.”

The research is estimated to cost $80,000.