Legislative Council: Tuesday, November 01, 2022


Answers to Questions


113 The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD ().7 September 2022). Can the Minister for Health and Wellbeing advise:

1. What consultation has the state government undertaken with regard to silicosis?

2. Has representation been made by unions, interest groups or individuals to the state government concerning silicosis?

3. What action has the state government taken to address concerns in the construction industry with silicosis?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): The Minister for Health and Wellbeing has advised:

SafeWork SA is the lead agency for consultation regarding silicosis, including with unions and other relevant groups.

However I can advise that in 2021, the commonwealth provided a final report for the National Dust Disease Taskforce (the taskforce) that examined the rise in silicosis cases among workers principally employed to manufacture and fit manufactured stone (eg benchtops). It was found that many young workers operating in poorly managed workplaces developed silicosis with catastrophic results (shortened life-expectancy and life-changing respiratory disease).

The South Australian Government also engaged with the taskforce and provided a list of proposed activities/actions underway to support the recommendations from the taskforce.

SA Health is also guided by the SA Strategy for Respirable Crystalline Silica Exposure Awareness and Reduction 2020, which identifies a plan to reduce workplace exposure to respirable silica.

Wellbeing SA is currently providing advice to the proposed National Occupational Respiratory Disease Registry through the Building Advisory Group, which was one of the key recommendations of the taskforce, in order to understand the prevalence of occupationally caused respiratory diseases and to help reduce further worker exposure.

As an interim measure to the implementation of this national registry, South Australia has designed and implemented the South Australian Silicosis Registry which became operational in April 2022 in four public hospitals across South Australia. The South Australian Silicosis Registry aims to understand the silicosis disease epidemiology in South Australia and identify occupational risk factors.

To date, no silicosis patients have been added to the South Australian Silicosis Registry, reflecting the rarity of the disease. The South Australian Silicosis Registry will be operational until the establishment of the National Occupational Respiratory Disease Registry.

In addition to occupational exposure, SA Health is addressing concern about community exposure to silica from quarries and mining activity with risk communication for these affected communities. SA Health is also working with the EPA and other government agencies to consider adequate protection limits for silica in dust. National leadership will be provided in setting these consistent environmental regulation limits in relation to respirable crystalline silica.