The Indonesian authorities have for the first time recognised officially the existence of asbestos disease cases in the country. Until this year, Indonesia had never formally recognised a case of asbestosis, with sufferers routinely misdiagnosed with tuberculosis.
The knock-on effect was that there had not been a single successful claim for workers’ compensation for work-related asbestos disease.
Indonesia is a major consumer and manufacturer of asbestos products, and is a key target for asbestos industry lobbyists, whose well-resourced campaign has targeted officials with the message than chrysotile asbestos can be used safely.
Wira Ginting, who heads up the Local Initiative for Occupational Health and Safety Network (LION) that supports asbestos workers and victims in the country, said: “There is huge, massive consumption of asbestos. But on the ground, there is no case of asbestos-related disease. For some people, it provides proof in support of the asbestos lobby’s position.”
In 2015, LION organised the independent medical examination of 20 workers in asbestos factories. The next step was to submit workers’ compensation claims on behalf of affected workers to the state social security agency, BPJS Employment. In what campaigners describe as a huge breakthrough, the agency has now for the first time recognised these cases as work-related asbestos disease, ruling they are eligible for compensation.