Page 737 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 28 March 2023
MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Mr Cocks for the question. I have been very clearly advised by Canberra Health Services that staff are treated equally in relation to matters of potential and alleged misconduct. It would depend on the circumstances of individual matters what that treatment was—whether that was standing down, whether that was termination or whether that was a different response in terms of potential preliminary assessment under the enterprise agreement. But there are very clear processes in place, through the enterprise agreement and through public service standards, that are followed when these types of issues come to light.
Work health and safety—silica dust
MR PETTERSSON: My question is to the Minister for Industrial Relations and Workplace Safety. Minister, what steps has the ACT government already taken to address the risk of silica dust?
MR GENTLEMAN: I thank Mr Pettersson for the question and for his interest in worker safety across the ACT. The more we learn about silicosis the more evident it becomes that this is a devastating and debilitating disease. Silica exposure is emerging as a significant health risk with the potential to be as, if not more, harmful than asbestos, so the ACT government takes this risk very seriously and we will always prioritise the safety of workers. That is why the government released its Silica Dust Reforms Action Plan in 2022 to help improve work safety and better protect workers from silica dust exposure. This action plan set out a number of planned reforms to be implemented in phases.
The first of these reforms involves amendments to the Work Health and Safety Regulation made in July 2022 to mandate training in silica awareness for workers whose jobs put them at risk of silica exposure or involve working with silica products. This training needs to be completed by July this year. Changes were also made in order to
ban the uncontrolled dry cutting of certain silica containing materials and introduce
new silica safety rules for mechanically cutting crystalline silica materials. A dry-cutting ban when cutting engineered stone with a power tool or another mechanical process
has been in place, of course, since 14 July 2022 and there has been an uncontrolled dry-cutting ban when cutting crystalline silica materials other than engineered stone
with a power tool or other mechanical processes from 2 November 2022.
We have also created an express requirement that, when working involves mechanical cutting of crystalline silica materials, a safe work method statement must be completed prior to undertaking the activity as it is classified as high-risk construction work, and this has been in place since 31 January 2023.
MR PETTERSSON: Minister, what consultation with stakeholders occurred prior to the introduction of these changes?
MR GENTLEMAN: We have been working closely with the construction industry unions as well and other stakeholders to develop reforms that protect trades people from the harmful effects of silica dust. The ACT has been one of the fastest moving and most comprehensive jurisdictions when it comes to addressing the risk that crystalline silica poses to our construction workers. Throughout this process it has