“With the average age of exposure for recorded mesothelioma sufferers being 23 years-of-age, I believe we have a responsibility to ensure those entering the construction industry are informed and empowered to make potentially life-saving decisions.”
The Construction Training Fund (CTF) hosted a workshop in mid-August 2017 for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) and industry stakeholders. Guests included Jo Morris from Reflections, Dale Alcock from the ABN Group and Dr Peter Franklin from UWA. The focus of the workshop was to;
Increase awareness of the ongoing risks of asbestos and the relevance to school students, pre-apprentices and apprentices who are entering the construction industry.
Discuss with workshop participants the idea of creating a set of standardised resources that can be used by RTOs to deliver asbestos awareness training.
The workshop was the result of months of investigation and consultation by Jo Morris, Reflections’ Operations Manager. Having a son entering a pre-apprenticeship, Jo was interested in what, if any, asbestos awareness training was being taught to the younger generations.
During the workshop, it was highlighted that three in four tradies find it difficult to identify asbestos and new apprentices were not receiving a consistent, relevant education about the risks of asbestos in the workplace. Although asbestos materials were banned in Australia in 2003, with the large amounts of in-situ asbestos, our tradies and DIY’ers are now at most risk of contracting an asbestos-related disease.
A Curtin University survey of 240 carpenters, painters, plumbers and electricians indicated only small numbers had received training related to asbestos. For example, only 17 per cent of electricians had received any training and 38 per cent reported that they would find it difficult to identify asbestos. Electricians and plumbers are most at risk of exposure to asbestos.
Builder Dale Alcock, whose father died from mesothelioma, said a ban on asbestos products in Australia had created a false comfort that the building industry lacks asbestos. “But that couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said. “We’d like to see a contemporary training module that talks about assessment, identification and correct handling of asbestos.”
Dr Peter Franklin, a senior research fellow in Population and Public Health at the University of WA said asbestos remained abundant in WA. “Asbestos is not going to go away in our lifetime at least, because there is just so much of it,” said Dr Franklin, who spoke at the workshop.
“With the average age of exposure for recorded mesothelioma sufferers being 23 years-of-age, I believe we have a responsibility to ensure those entering the construction industry are informed and empowered to make potentially life-saving decisions,” says Ms Morris.
“With WA’s history of asbestos and the fact that we have the highest rates of asbestos-related disease in the world, there is an opportunity for WA to lead by example. Unlike in the past, we are now in the privileged position of knowing about the dangers of asbestos and have the opportunity to potentially reduce the risk of exposure for our future tradies.
The workshop highlighted the industry’s keenness to adopt a consistent approach to training in asbestos awareness in Western Australia (WA).
In the longer term, the industry would like to see training embedded into the White Card which would ensure all workers would receive the basic asbestos awareness training prior to entering a worksite.
Since the workshop, Jo Morris has worked with the Construction Training Fund and other industry stakeholders to assist CELL media in producing an animated asbestos awareness training video which they donated free of charge after hearing about the workshop.
The CTF was provided with a set of asbestos awareness training resources from the Asbestos Free Tasmania Foundation. The CTF tailored the resources to meet WA’s needs and has offered them to RTOs who deliver construction qualifications to school students, pre-apprentices and apprentices.
Let’s continue to work together in providing education in the most effective way.
Meso Warriors run for a reason through the streets of Perth…
Running or walking to honour loved ones affected by mesothelioma & raise much needed funds for medical research…
This year’s HBF Run for a Reason attracted over 35,000 participants, all running or walking for a reason. The Reflections team – Meso Warriors – was well represented with over 50 members and supporters. Many of us had very personal reasons to take part as we did so to honour loved ones affected by asbestos-related disease, specifically mesothelioma. We were very conspicuous in our blue bling – tiaras, tutus, wigs, special effect makeup and other over-the-top blue bling ensured that the Meso Warriors stood out amongst the masses.
Assembling early morning in the streets of Perth City, the sky was an ominous grey. Fortunately, the rain held off for the most part, as we traversed our way to Gloucester Park. It was an amazing and very entertaining walk, jog or run. It is not often that pedestrians have access to major roads such as Riverside Drive, the Freeway or the “Polly Pipe”. Complimenting this surreal experience were the views of our beautiful city and the Swan River. Many participants were happy to provide on-the-road entertainment with their costumes and antics. The Star Wars Stormtroopers were especially entertaining – not what you normally see on the streets of Perth. There was plenty of entertainment on the side of the road too. Bands, dancers, jugglers and superheroes all created a fun atmosphere.
Most us did the shorter, 4 km, scenic stroll while a few of our more intrepid members chose to do the longer 12 km run via the freeway and the new stadium. We even had one brave and eager soul complete the half marathon. A fabulous effort by all!
Last year we sadly lost a member of our team, Peter Rafferty, to his battle with mesothelioma. We previously participated in HBF Run for a Reason to try and raise funds to help others battling the illness and it was important to us to continue to support Peter’s family as well. He was a much loved member of our team and is still sorely missed.
Professionals Stirling Clark
After losing my beautiful Aunty to mesothelioma last year, another beautiful Aunty has recently been diagnosed with the disease. I fear that we may be only just starting to see the top of a very big, terrible iceberg…who knows how many of us may be grateful for the benefits of this research one day.
My dad was the founder of Reflections and I am honoured to carry on his legacy. He would have been humbled and proud of the Meso Warriors today.
Everyone had a great morning while, at the same time, raising of over $6,000 to contribute to the work being undertaken by Reflections. Many of us are already looking forward to the 2019 Run for a Reason and we would love to have you join us.
Asbestosis…the thought of not getting enough breath was possibly the most terrifying thing I could think of.
Asbestosis is the more commonly known name for asbestos-related disease and yet, as it is not a terminal cancer like mesothelioma, it doesn’t get the same focus. We would like to introduce you to Geoff, a valued member of our support community.
A few years ago, I found myself inexplicably short of breath. I couldn’t walk more than 100 metres without struggling for breath and I had no energy or strength.
Although now retired, my work life had included a five-year apprenticeship at the Midland Railway Workshops back in the 50’s. The locomotives that we worked on had asbestos lagging (refer image). Having had friends succumb to asbestos-related disease through similar exposure, I had been having X-rays and annual checks with for the past 8 years or so. Although these had revealed spots on my lungs, the spots were not moving or growing so I had no cause for concern. I got on with life as through it were a non-event. At that time, I knew very little about asbestos disease not realising that there were two main types one more serious than the other. *(refer note below)
In 2015 I went back for a check-up and was told the spots in mu lungs were moving. This led to a diagnosis of asbestosis. My immediate reaction was sheer bloody terror and to think the worst. I wasn’t comprehending information as, I suppose like many others in similar situations, the thought of not getting enough breath was possibly the most terrifying thing I could think of. At the time, I belonged to a self-help group that had not only helped me through a past crisis but was a major influence on how I live my life. But I felt I needed connection with people that might know more about my current situation and who could help me get clarity. This search led me to the Reflections Through Reality support group. Their friendship and concern has been fantastic and, although my condition is not nearly as serious as others in the group, I find their courage, optimism and positive outlook an inspiration. Some of the things I have gained through this group is gratitude, friendship and admiration for those who are vastly more effected than me. Without the group’s support I imagine I would feel confused and alone. I am truly thankfully I contacted them.
By Geoff Becker
* 1. Asbestosis, inflammation and scarring of the lungs 2. Mesothelioma, a terminal cancer – both resulting from asbestos exposure.