04 Apr 2005 questionsarchive
A question put forward to the Hon. T.G. ROBERTS regarding workcover.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK:

1. Does WorkCover have a policy regarding the potential for workers to develop the condition known as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?

2. If so, what is its policy?

3. If not, does WorkCover plan to develop a policy in relation to Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?

The Hon. T.G. ROBERTS: The Minister for Industrial Relations has provided the following information:

The causes and possible treatment of Multiple Chemical  Sensitivity or MCS is an area subject to medical and scientific debate.

I am advised that current knowledge indicates that persons claiming to have MCS may have been exposed to chemicals or other substances at levels well below toxic levels and well below accepted occupational exposure standards, which can be virtually immeasurable.

Given the biological variations that exist between individuals, it is inevitable that a very small proportion of workers who are exposed to concentrations well below an accepted exposure standard may suffer from MCS.

WorkCover does not intend to attempt to develop a policy that could cover all claimed incidences of MCS.

Rather, it relies on the protections stipulated in Part 3 of the Occupational Health, Safety andWelfare Act 1986 (the Act) which sets out an employer’s responsibilities and duty to provide a safe working environment.

Part 4 of the Act also provides protections for workers as it requires the adoption of set standards and measures as specified in the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations 1995 regarding chemical exposure.

Claims that are made by workers for adverse reactions to a range of chemicals in the workplace are treated on their own merits and an investigation of the circumstances is necessary to assess the claim.

Should a person make a claim for workers’ compensation, alleging that MCS has caused him or her a disability, then the requirements of the Act would need to be met.

It may be of interest to the Honourable Member to note that WorkCover recently provided data on claim numbers to the Social Development Committee of the Parliament of South Australia, which is conducting an inquiry and preparing a report on MCS. This data provided information aboutWorkCover claims where the mechanism of injury was chemical or other hazardous substance.