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Dust diseases in the workplace

Dust diseases are a broad name for chronic lung diseases caused by inhaling harmful dust particles. Not all dust is harmful, but dust from materials such as silica, hard metals cotton, straw and asbestos can increase risks of developing lung diseases. For more information, see 'what is a dust disease?'.

Exposure to dust in the workplace can result in a number of serious lung diseases including lung cancer, silicosis, sarcoidosis, pulmonary tuberculosis and airway diseases.


Inhaling crystalline silica can lead to fibro-nodular parenchymal lung disease, also known as Silicosis.

  • Chronic Silicosis – usually found in those who have had more than 20 years’ exposure to silica. There are usually no symptoms of Chronic Silicosis, however, shortness of breath and a cough can develop. To identify Chronic Silicosis, an x-ray is required to see the nodules on the lungs. Eventually, coughing becomes debilitating.
  • Accelerated Silicosis – usually develops after large amounts of exposure over 5 -15 years. Swelling in the lungs occurs faster than regular Silicosis.
  • Acute Silicosis – usually develops within months of exposure to large amounts of silica. Acute Silicosis can rapidly progress into acute respiratory failure. Patients can progress to respiratory failure and death.

Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath and weight loss. To diagnose Silicosis, tests include chest x-rays, CT scans, pulmonary function tests, tuberculosis tests and blood tests. Advice from a GP should always be sought when treating Silicosis. For serious cases of the disease medicines will be administered and can also result in the need for bronchodilators and oxygen therapy. Like all lung disease, limiting exposure to irritants and quitting smoking are essential.

If you think that you may have developed silicosis at work, please use our contact form below and one of our team will be in touch to provide you with an obligation-free consultation.


Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease usually managed through nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Many patients don’t require therapy and their condition can spontaneously improve.

Symptoms differ with the extent and severity of organ involvement

  • Asymptomatic – detected on the chest, accounting for approximately 5% of cases.
  • Systemic complaints – fever and anorexia occurring in approximately 45% of cases.
  • Pulmonary complaints – dyspnoea on exertion, cough, chest pain and haemoptysis. Symptoms occur in approximately 50% of cases.
  • Lofgren Syndrome – fever, bilateral hilar lymphadenopathy and polyarthralgias symptoms.

Diagnosis for Sarcoidosis is generally through chest radiography, a high resolution CT scan or gallium scans.

If you think that you may have developed Sarcoidosis at work, please use the form below and our team will be in touch.

Industries at risk of Dust Diseases

  • Masonry, stonework, tile setting and plastering
  • Service to buildings
  • Concrete, gypsum and plaster products
  • Roofing and sheet metal work
  • Industrial machinery and equipment
  • Automotive repair shops
  • Pottery and related products
  • Oil extraction
  • Coal and lignite mining
  • Quarrying
  • Metal mining
  • Agriculture
  • Construction
  • Glass and Fiberglass production
  • Paint
  • Soaps and cosmetics
  • Rubber and plastics

Please keep in mind that proper safety precautions can prevent workers from these dust diseases. This includes masks, safe work wear and regular fresh air breaks.

Compensation Lawyers

Workers who develop dust disease in the workplace may be entitled to claim compensation for their injuries. Compensation can help improve the quality of life for those affected by making it easier for them to access the medical support they require.

If you've have been exposed to asbestos dust specifically, please see our Asbestos Law services page. For those in Queensland or Western Australia, see our QLD/WA Asbestos Law page, and for those in other states, see our National Asbestos Law page.

Shine Lawyers have expert compensation lawyers who act on a no win no fee basis, and are available for an obligation-free consultation.

Our offer to you

  • Obligation-free consultation to assess your case confidentially

  • Claim assessment process where we will explain all of the options available to you

  • We can come to you - if you can't make it into the office we're more than happy to come to you

  • No Win No Fee arrangement

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