Awareness raising for lung health and lung disease will be among the issues discussed at WorkSafe Victoria’s Silicosis Summit for medical professionals this week.
Research into the deadly lung disease silicosis and a strong awareness campaign to highlight the risks of working with engineered stone, will be discussed by expert speakers including occupational physician and Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Physicians (RACP) Dr Graeme Edwards and respiratory specialist Dr Ryan Hoy.
Lung Foundation Australia Advocacy and Policy Manager Judy Powell will be presenting on how a collective approach from organisations, government and the medical community is needed to improve lung health and reduce the impact of occupational lung disease for Australians.
“We look forward to discussing the important role medical professionals play in raising awareness about lung health, and how we can adapt the successes of Lung Foundation Australia’s existing awareness campaigns to raising awareness about the prevention, early detection and management of silicosis at individual, community, industry and government levels,” Ms Powell said.
“This will be an important opportunity to identify how we can all come together collectively, collaborate, pool our resources and share a consistent message.”
Lung Foundation Australia works closely with medical professionals, policy makers, The Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand, the Royal Australian College of Physicians and Asthma Australia.
“It’s going to take a united approach and significant funding to develop a well-researched and comprehensive national campaign,” Ms Powell said.
Slater and Gordon Principal Lawyer Claire Setches said while there was now a stronger focus on lung health and awareness of dust disease among the health community, lung health needed to be more of a priority in Australia.
“Crystalline silica has been present in bricks and concrete in Australia for decades, but in the past 18 years has been found in extremely high concentrations in materials, such as artificial stone-top benchtops,” Ms Setches said.
“Medical professionals have the opportunity to play a much stronger role in creating better awareness regarding lung disease to help Australians take their lung health more seriously.
“Lung Foundation Australia is a patient-based organisation and we support their advocacy efforts and the hard work that they do to ensure Australians are provided with access to the best health services and information.”
Ms Setches joined forces with Dr Hoy to lobby, together with The Victorian Trades Hall Council and The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU), State Government MPs, regulatory bodies and State Government departments, for a change in work practices and to bring the silicosis epidemic to their attention.
“The Victorian Government has been incredibly responsive in banning uncontrolled dry cutting this month, providing free health screenings for Victoria’s 1400 stonemasons and putting in place a tough new compliance code for businesses working with silica,” Ms Setches said.
Slater and Gordon has launched an investigation into a class action against the manufacturers of popular kitchen and bathroom stone benchtops. Slater and Gordon was the first law firm to establish a National Asbestos Register for Australians as well as a National Silicosis Register for people to register their exposure to silica dust.