The WA Government has made changes to the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 to increase protections for workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica in the engineered stone industry. Commencing on 15 January 2021, with a three-month grace period, Western Australian (WA) employers must provide a low-dose high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) scan, supervised by an appointed medical practitioner, instead of the previously required chest X-ray.
Silicosis is a serious and potentially lethal occupational lung disease caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica in industries such as engineered stone product manufacturing, installation, stonemasonry and construction work. HRCT scans are superior to chest X-rays and can help in the early detection of silicosis, with WA being the first Australian state to require these scans. WA Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston said this amendment to workplace safety laws will help in the early detection or prevention of this disease.
“The low-dose high-resolution CT scan, coupled with the recent halving of the workplace exposure standard for respirable crystalline silica, will be of great assistance in improving health outcomes for workers exposed to silica,” Johnston said. “There has been much concern about the number of silicosis cases in the eastern states and, although we have seen relatively few cases in WA, it’s appropriate we take action to minimise the risks for workers.”
The amendments to the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 will come into effect from 15 April 2021.