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Eliminating health hazards in the workplace

4 December 2012    

Occupational hygienist experts and practitioners from around the country and overseas are in Adelaide this week for the 2012 Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists Conference. 

Attended by over 500 delegates the conference will address how environmental stressors in the workplace may result in injury, illness, impairment, or affect the wellbeing of workers and members in the community. This comes at a time when the world seeks to address a myriad of workplace hazards such as asbestos, noise, shift work, lead exposure and radiation.

“As technological advances become more complex sometimes they carry with them certain health disadvantages making it an ongoing challenge for hygienists,” said Dr Barry Chesson, President of the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists which now boasts over 1000 members in Australia.

“At the same time, social expectations require more consideration of workers’ welfare and wellbeing, putting the practice of OH right on the cutting edge of preventive medicine, both physically and socially.”

According to Safe Work Australia, work related injury and illness were estimated to cost Australia over $60 billion dollars with over 130,000 workers compensation claims per year.

“Preventing ill health as a result of the working environment far outweigh the costs, we are working towards eliminating or controlling hazards in the workplace to protect the health of workers,” said Conference Chair Charles Steer.

Today international keynote speaker Dr Jeroen Douwens from Massey University, University of Wellington, presented his research surrounding asthma causation, mechanisms and prevention.

His abstract reads that occupational asthma and dermatitis are among the most common work-related disorders in industrialised countries like Australia and New Zealand. The research, conducted primarily in the sawmill industry, found that wood dust exposures were well below the current exposure standards and are associated with an elevated risk of asthma and lung function decline.

Jeroen is well-respected in the field, is an author of over 100 peer reviewed scientific publication, Associate Editor of the International Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health and is director of a $5.6 million Programme Grant on occupational causes of motor neuron disease, congenital malformations, asthma and neuropsychological disorders.

On Tuesday Professor Doug Boreham, from the McMaster University in Canada, will be presenting on how radiation exposure risk can be affected by biology and modified by diet and exercise. Professor Boreham has over 25 years of radiation research experience and his expertise involves radiation cancer risk and the biological effects of low dose radiation exposures in humans.

Manmade exposures to radiation typically come from two sources; 1) occupational exposure in the workplace, or 2) through medical procedures to identify and treat illness. Professor Boreham will be challenging how radiation risk is not proportional to radiation dose.

This new knowledge is showing how low dose exposure to radiation risk depends on biology and not just the actual dose as originally thought. Professor Boreham’s will also be presenting on recent results which show that exercise and diet can modify radiation risk.

What:  Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists 30th Annual Conference

Where:  Adelaide Convention Centre, North Terrace, Adelaide

When:  Monday 3 December – Wednesday 5 December 2012

Time:  8:30am – 5.00pm

Website including full program and speaker bios:


Conference Spokespeople: Dr Barry Chesson, President of the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists, and Charles Steer, Congress Chair, are both available for interview.

Speakers: Interviews with the speakers can be arranged through the media contacts listed below. Abstracts from each speaker can be supplied in advance. Other notable speakers include:

  • Dr Leena Nylander-French, University of North Carolina – Genetic Differences and the impact of personal and workplace exposure factors.
  • Vinod Gopaldasani, University of Wollongong – Dehydration and its influences on heat stress indices.
  • Geze Benke, Monash University – Mortality and Cancer incidence from Lead exposure.
  • Linda Apthorpe – Amateur Musicians: Are they at risk of noise induced hearing loss?

Simon Hatcher  08 8412 4105 or
Alissa Nightingale 08 8412 4108 or