The rise of silicosis in the stonemasonry industry has been a feature in the national press in recent months. Silicosis is a serious lung condition characterised by the development of fibrous tissue around the dust particle which causes a breathing obstruction. Often, this presents as breathlessness, coughing, chest discomfort and fatigue. These symptoms can develop over time.
But Adviceline Injury Lawyers, Managing Partner, Bree Knoester, is now investigating the incidence of the disease occurring in teachers who have taught ceramics. Many teachers have taught in dusty art and ceramics classrooms for decades without knowing that the glazes and ceramics clay they are using contains silica. Silica can be one of three main ingredients in potter's clay. In the United States, there have been known cases of silicosis or potter's rote from chronic inhalation of free silica during clay mixing.
Bree is acting for a ceramics teacher who was required to handle clay, clean clay dust and apply glazes containing silica for decades without adequate ventilation or respiratory protection. Too often ceramics areas and kilns are relegated to parts of schools that are not renovated, poorly ventilated and without adequate dust extraction systems.
Much work is being done in the construction and stonemasonry industry to ban the dry cutting of materials that contain silica and 300 workplaces are going to be audited. But we cannot forget our schools and our teachers who are potentially exposed every day to this dangerous dust.
Are you an art or ceramics teacher currently working with clay containing silica? Bree encourages you to obtain the Material Data Safety Sheet from the manufacturer of the clay to see if it contains silica and also to ensure you wear appropriate respiratory protection. Art classrooms can often build up with layers of dust and need to be professionally cleaned. Too often those required to clean the art and ceramics rooms are the teachers themselves, further exposing them to free silica dust.
If you have worked in a classroom and believe you may have been exposed to silica, contact a lawyer for free advice on (03) 9321 9988.