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Recognition of Skilled Occupational Hygienists in the Motion to Address Silicosis Epidemic

Recognition of Skilled Occupational Hygienists in the Motion to Address Silicosis Epidemic

09 April 2019

Last week the Australian Senate put forth a motion in parliament, calling on the Federal Government to act on the growing epidemic of workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) dust.

The dangers of exposure to RCS dust have been known for decades, however increased attention to the high risks involved in the dry-cutting of stone are circulating among industry, government and the medical profession. This has been propelled by an alarming spate of recent diagnosed cases of silicosis, and the likely continued growth of these diagnoses.

With no known treatment that can reverse the progress of this disease, it is agreed that the best solution to combat the present danger of further harm to workers is to focus on prevention.


The Proposed Action

Senator Richard Di Natale (Victoria- Leader of the Australian Greens) highlighted the following points required to eliminate and minimise the risk of RCS dust:

Fund an initiative to educate workers in at-risk occupations on the dust control measures used in their industry, including:

(A) independent monitoring of dust levels,
(B) training in the selection, maintenance and use of respirators, and
(C) use of measures to control airborne dust, including enforcing an immediate prohibition on dry-cutting techniques


Recognising the need for:

(A) qualified and competent occupational hygienists to be involved in the recognition, evaluation and control of silica exposures, and

(B) establishing a multi-disciplinary Institute of Occupational Health.


The motion can be viewed in its entirety here.


The Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists (AIOH) President, Dr Julia Norris, described the Senator’s motion as a welcome intervention. She said, “It is gratifying to see such a positive response at the highest level to the current silicosis epidemic. We are working with both Commonwealth and State governments to maintain a focus on prevention of exposure to toxic dusts in the workplace.”

As recommended by Senator Di Natale, the need for qualified and competent occupational hygienists is essential for this preventative model of action to be successful.


Greencap’s national team of Occupational Hygienists includes three Certified Occupational Hygienists (COH) and four Full Members of the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists (MAIOH). The most recent to be granted full membership is Jon Newton (Senior Consultant), who possesses more than 15 years of occupational hygiene experience.

To achieve full membership, an Occupational Hygienist must have completed relevant tertiary studies and have been working in the field of occupational hygiene for more than five years. In addition, they must be able to demonstrate to the council that a satisfactory level of professional competence has been achieved.


How Greencap Can Help

Greencap is well-equipped to assist businesses in providing practical advice for managing the risk of exposure to RCS through: 

  • Risk- based hygiene management plans
  • Hazard identification
  • Workplace monitoring
  • Exposure mitigation

Contact Greencap for assistance



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