WorkCover Queensland has engaged two leading universities to undertake important research on how to best support workers who have been diagnosed with silicosis, Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace announced today.
Ms Grace said Professor Malcolm Sim from Monash University and Professor Bob Cohen from the University of Illinois would lead expert teams to address important issues including:
- the treatment, rehabilitation and retraining options that are available to improve workers’ capacity to work;
- the mental health impact and issues preventing return to work; and
- ensuring the return to work environment is safe to protect workers’ long-term health.
“Both teams bring extensive experience in the management of dust diseases and best practice return to work,” Ms Grace said.
“They are involved in research and other initiatives in schemes across Australia and internationally to improve how workers with dust diseases are supported in their recovery.”
WorkCover Chief Executive Officer Bruce Watson said the research would be published to ensure all workers’ compensation schemes would benefit from greater knowledge about best practice strategies to support workers.
“WorkCover Queensland is committed to providing the best possible support to Queensland workers who are diagnosed with dust diseases and is now supporting more than 168 workers who have been diagnosed with silicosis or progressive massive fibrosis,” Mr Watson said.
“This research will help continue to improve the support we provide, based on the latest research about best practice strategies.”
Ms Grace said the research project, which was estimated to cost around $80,000, was the next phase in the Palaszczuk Government’s response to the threat of silicosis.
“Queensland is leading the nation in responding to the threat of silicosis,” she said.
“In September 2018 when the government received advice on the troubling spike in cases of silicosis in the engineered stone benchtop fabrication industry, it acted immediately, issuing a public alert about the risks of engineered stone and reminded industry of the prohibition on uncontrolled dry cutting of this stone,” she said.
“Since then, audits have been conducted on all known engineered stone benchtop fabricators in Queensland, health screening has been arranged for 1023 workers and forums for workers, employers and the medical community have been held and counselling has been arranged workers and their families.
“We have also established an expert medical working group to develop clinical guidance and an Australian-first Dust Lung Disease register, and a new Code of Practice is close to finalisation.
“The Palaszczuk Government remains committed to protecting workers from the scourge of silicosis and supporting those who have been diagnosed and their families.”
Minister for Education and Minister for Industrial Relations
The Honourable Grace Grace