Protection from deadly silica dust for all Australians

Thursday 2 May 2019
Bree Knoester

Following the workplace audits conducted by Queensland Government last year, 300 high-risk Victorian workplaces are soon to be investigated in a blitz focused on preventing deadly lung disease, silicosis.

The “unprecedented compliance and enforcement blitz” undertaken by the Andrew’s Government will include placing a state-wide ban on uncontrolled dry cutting of materials that contain crystalline silica dust, free health screening for Victoria’s 1,400 stonemasons, implementation of a tough new compliance code for businesses working with silica, and the launch of an awareness campaign to highlight the risks of working with engineered stone.

In a joint statement by Premier Daniel Andrews and Workplace Safety Minister Jill Hennessy yesterday, the State Government has directed WorkSafe Victoria to consider improvements to compensation access for workers with silicosis, including the hastening of claims for lost wages and pain and suffering.

On a national scale the Morrison government seeks to develop a national approach for the prevention, early identification, control and management of dust diseases in Australia, with plans to establish a new national dust diseases taskforce and dust diseases register. 

With cases of accelerated silicosis increasing on a national scale at an alarming rate, both political parties are seeking to implement policy ahead of the election.

The long forgotten industrial disease has resurfaced as an outcome of the increased use of artificial stone in kitchen builds and renovations, explains Bree Knoester, partner at Adviceline Injury Lawyers.

“When any material containing silica is dry cut small particles of dust are released.  The inhalation of this dust can have devastating health consequences,” said Bree.

During 2011 approximately 587,000 people were exposed to silica dust in their workplaces.  The Cancer Council of Australia believes that of those 5758 will develop lung cancer.  In 2018, WorkSafe received 28 claims for silica-related conditions, and 15 workers have lost their lives since 1985.

If you are aware you have inadvertently been exposed to silica dust or other chemicals or toxins, or work in an environment that exposes you to dust, it is worth speaking with your doctor and recording your exposure early.

For more information, or to chat with a lawyer directly, please call (03) 9321 9988.

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