26 September 2023

Safe Work on lookout for cancer causes

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Safe Work Australia has announced it is seeking to find out if dangerous cancer-causing ‘carcinogens’ can be found in Australian workplaces and if so, where, in what quantities and for what purpose.

Referring to the carcinogens as Non-Threshold Genotoxic Carcinogens (NTGCs) Safe Work said they could cause cancer by interfering with normal body processes and altering DNA.

“No safe exposure level or dose can be established for NTGCs based on current scientific knowledge,” Safe Work Australia said.

“Any exposure poses a risk of cancer.”

It said a review of Australia workplaces identified 33 chemicals as NTGCs. Safe Work has now launched a survey to collect information.

“Work processes can release dusts, gases, fumes, vapours or mists into the air,” Safe Works said.

“These are known as airborne contaminants and may be invisible. People that breathe in airborne contaminants at work may be at risk of adverse health effects, including developing an occupational lung disease”.

It said any person conducting a business or undertaking must eliminate risks in the workplace.

“If that is not possible, you must minimise the risks so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes minimising the risks of airborne contaminants in the workplace and ensuring that workers and others at the workplace are not exposed to levels of airborne contaminants above their workplace exposure standard (WES).”

Safe Work said it was also seeking information from stakeholders to inform decisions around how NTGCs should be regulated to protect workers from exposure to the carcinogens.

Information about the Workplace Exposure Standards and the NTGCs can be accessed at the Safe Work Australia website at this PS News link and the survey at this PS News link until 8 September.

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