In the wake of the troubling resurgence of silicosis, Shine Lawyers has been spearheading the push for governments around Australia to recognise the dangers of benchtop cutting. (If you have been exposed to silicosis dust without proper protective equipment, regardless of how recently, submit your details to our Silicosis Exposure Register.)
As a result of Shine’s calls for the abolition of dangerous work practices and greater regulation of the industry, The Queensland Government has now announced an immediate ban on dry-cutting artificial stone benchtops. It has also urged all workers in the engineered stone industry to be tested after WorkCover received 22 silicosis claims in the space of three weeks. Tragically, six of these cases were terminal.
Whilst Silicosis is preventable with safe work practices, engineered stone is especially risky as it can contain up to 90% silica. A pilot audit that Workplace Health and Safety Queensland launched at the end of 2017 investigated 10 Queensland work sites and uncovered a number of dangerous practices.1
Stonemasons like all Australian workers deserve a safe workplace. These are the words of Shine’s leading dust diseases lawyer, Roger Singh who has been calling for a complete ban on dry cutting. Singh is encouraging Governments to implement a systems requiring licensing of workshops that cut engineered stone and tougher penalties for workshops who don’t comply, including revoking licenses and issuing heavy fines.
What is silicosis?
Silicosis is an incurable progressive respiratory disease and can in some instances be fatal. It’s caused by breathing in fragments of silica dust. There are three types of silicosis: chronic, accelerated and acute. Accelerated silicosis results from short term large amounts of inadequately protected exposure to silica (5-10 years). This was once rare but is becoming more common in engineered stone workers.
Shine Lawyers has written before about silicosis and the current risks of contracting it: https://www.shine.com.au/blog/asbestos-law/silicosis-dangers-reconstituted-stone.
Who is urged to get tested?
Silicosis can affect people who work with stone benches or in any industry where they are exposed to materials that contain silica. Sandblasters and stonemasons are at particularly high risk of developing silicosis. Age is not a factor and anyone working in these industries are encouraged to get checked.
A helpful overview of industries, occupations and materials with above-average levels of risk can be found here: https://www.silicosis.com/workplace_dangers/index.php.
What kind of screening is required to detect silicosis?
Testing for silicosis requires a standardised respiratory questionnaire and a physical examination with emphasis on the respiratory system. For further information see https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/system/files/documents/1702/crystalline_silica.pdf.
How do I make a claim?
Shine Lawyers are experts in dust diseases and silicosis exposure and can provide you with an obligation-free consultation. Contact us at https://www.shine.com.au/service/dust-disease-compensation/silicosis-compensation.
You can also register you to our Silicosis Exposure Register, regardless of the timeframe, below.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: February 15, 2019.