Australian Workers’ Union urges gov’t to safeguard workers from fatal silica dust exposure

Image credit: Australian Workers' Union

The Australian Workers’ Union, in a meeting in Canberra today, is urging federal, state, and territory ministers to shield workers from deadly silica dust exposure. 

In particular, the union is calling for the government to take action and introduce new work health and safety (WHS) laws to protect workers at risk of silicosis, lung cancer, and other diseases.

After a long period of union campaigning, Federal Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke will meet with his state and territory counterparts to discuss tougher action on silica exposures, according to a press release by the organisation. 

The meeting, according to AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton, would be a failure if tough action was not immediately announced.

“We’ve had enough talk about this, it’s time for action. It’s time to stop people dying,” Walton said.

“We know there are a range of measures that could be implemented to save lives. We now have the key decision-makers in a room together. Time to pull the trigger,” the union secretary added. 

The Australian Workers’ Union requires tunnelling businesses to conduct frequent, required air monitoring and to swiftly and publicly publish the results, added Walton.

He said unions must also be allowed to bring monitoring equipment to the job site. 

Meanwhile, the union also calls for stronger sanctions for businesses that fail to take the necessary precautions to protect employees from silica dust exposure, regardless of whether the issue is one of insufficient PPE or poor ventilation.

“If this meeting does not resolve with tough action today, then Australians will die from silicosis who did not have to. It’s that simple,” Walton emphasised.

He concluded that he applauds Tony Burke for adding silica to the meeting’s agenda today, imploring all of his state and territory counterparts to listen to the discussion and approve of urgent action.