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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 11 Hansard (Tuesday, 24 September 2019) . . Page.. 3744 ..

These programs will be supported in the next 12 months by a new physical health strategy, a supported transition of staff to new government office blocks and activity-based working environments and early intervention programs to address both physical and psychosocial injury. These include an early intervention physiotherapy program, facilitated discussion services and reasonable adjustment support.

Canberra is a growing city and home to nearly 60,000 people aged between 15 and 24 years. In recognition of the fact that young workers may be more vulnerable in the workplace, the ACT government set aside $470,000 over four years to establish a young workers advice service. The service has commenced and is providing free and confidential advice and assistance on work safety and other workplace relations matters to young workers. It does so by using a range of face-to-face and online methods.

Also in 2018-19, WorkSafe ACT conducted an apprentices and young vulnerable workers safety program. The program provided education and advice to apprentices, young and vulnerable workers to help them better understand work health and safety regulations and safety practices through education and industry engagement. WorkSafe inspectors spoke to more than 1,000 workers and employers across 200 workplaces. The program worked in conjunction with work site audits conducted by WorkSafe inspectors, identifying levels of compliance in supervision, workplace safety inductions and bullying and harassment avoidance.

WorkSafe also appointed its first dedicated psychological health officer in 2018-19. They are already working closely with employers and employees, managers and supervisors in providing mental health and safety support at information sessions and providing accessible resources and training programs. WorkSafe ACT inspectors will also receive training and access to ongoing mentoring for responding to psychological hazards. All Canberrans should have access to the information, support and services needed to maintain good mental health. WorkSafe’s investment in workplace mental health and safety reflects this government’s commitment to improving mental health and suicide prevention.

I turn now to the issue of silicosis. Silicosis is an irreversible scarring and stiffening of the lungs. It is a preventable occupational disease caused by exposure to silica dust. Members would be aware of the tragic stories of workers who have recently contracted silicosis as a result of exposure to silica dust at workplaces that are involved in the manufacture, finishing or installation of engineered stone products.

Throughout 2019 WorkSafe ACT has been conducting a silica dust compliance project, working with local businesses to identify and control silica dust risks. It has also published guidance material on crystalline silica dust and worked with the Cancer Council and SafeWork NSW to convene an occupational cancer for WHS managers and professionals workshop. The ACT government is also working with other jurisdictions to address silica exposure risks at the national level, including with Safe Work Australia.

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