If you have been exposed to silica dust, or someone you know has been exposed, and been diagnosed with silicosis, you may be able to make a compensation claim under Queensland or Western Australia legislation.
What is silicosis?
Silicosis is a lung disease that is caused by tiny particles of silica dust entering the airways. Silica dust is a microscopic mineral found in certain materials such as stone, granite, quartz, brick and sand among others. In more recent years silica is found in engineered stone which comprises of a 90-95% silica content.
There are three types of silicosis that can occur:
- Acute Silicosis. This can develop after a short exposure to extreme levels of silica dust, within a few weeks or years, and causes severe inflammation of the lungs as well as an outpouring of protein.
- Accelerated Silicosis. This can develop after prolonged exposure (roughly 3 to 10 years) to moderate to high levels of silica dust and can cause inflammation, scarring and protein pouring into the lungs.
- Chronic Silicosis. This occurs when one has had long term exposure to low levels of silica dust and causes fibrotic nodules and shortness of breath. This can also lead to progressive massive fibrosis, where the fibrotic nodules in the lung build up.
What occupations are most at risk?
Sicilia is a mineral that is often found in the earth’s crust and is present in a variety of products in many industries and workplaces. It is most dangerous when silica dust that is generated becomes airborne and is then inhaled by a worker.
Some of the occupations most at risk of inhaling silica dust are:
- Stone masonary
- Excavation, earth moving and drilling plant operations
- Paving and surfacing
- Brick, concrete or stone cutting; especially with dry methods
- Angle grinding, jack hammering and chiselling of concrete or masonry
- Pottery making
- Construction labour
How to best prevent silicosis?
The employer has a duty of care to manage the risks to health and safety when it comes to using, handling and cutting materials that contain silica. The employer must also ensure workplace exposure standards for silica are not exceeded and to warn employees of dangers associated with silica dust.
While it is up to the employer to adhere to these standards, there are measure the employee can take to minimize risk, such as:
- Isolating the hazard. Use designated areas for tasks that generate dust and ensuring proper PPE, such as respiratory equipment and work clothing that doesn’t collect dusts, is used in these areas.
- Appropriate equipment. Using equipment that have safety measures attached, such as local exhaust ventilation, water suppression (wet cutting) or tools with dust collection attachments.
- Good housekeeping. If a risk still remains, it is imperative that the area is cleaned up thoroughly to ensure the traces of silica are extremely minimal.
Shine Lawyers Silicosis Exposure Register
Often with diseases such as Silicosis, it can take years for symptoms to develop. That is why it is imperative to record the details of any silica exposure you may have had. Shine Lawyers has developed a National Silicosis Register to assist with tracking the presence of silicosis across Australia. If you have come into contact with silica, no matter how recently, register your details below.