WorkCover Queensland has commissioned two universities to research the best ways to support workers diagnosed with silicosis, in what’s expected to be an $80,000 project.
The research — lead by Professors Malcolm Sims and Bob Cohen of Monash University and the University of Illinois — will explore available treatment, rehabilitation and retraining options to improve patients’ capacity to work; the mental health impact and issues preventing return to work; and how to ensure the return-to-work environment is safe to protect workers’ long-term health.
Queensland’s Industrial Relations Minister, Grace Grace, said both teams are experienced in dust disease management and best practice return to work.
“[Both teams] 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,” Grace said.
WorkCover Chief Executive Officer Bruce Watson added that the research would be published so that all workers compensation schemes could 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,” Watson said.
Grace said that the research was the next phase in Queensland’s response to silicosis.
“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.”
The government has also set up a medical working group to develop clinical guidance and a Dust Lung Disease register. A code of practice is also being drawn up and is close to finalisation, Grace said.
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