The Dust Diseases Board will undergo a name swap and various functional changes as part of the NSW government's new $1 billion insurance reform package.
Announced on Tuesday (August 4), the 2015 Workers' Compensation reforms aim to simplify the existing system for injured employees and businesses.
According to WorkCover NSW, the Dust Diseases Board will be called the Dust Diseases Authority, but it will retain existing staff and functions. However, the board is also set to become an Advisory Committee to the newly formed Insurance & Care NSW agency.
The Dust Diseases Authority is designed to support people who suffer illnesses developed in hazardous jobs. Exposure to asbestos, for example, can lead to asbestosis and mesothelioma, which are responsible for hundreds of deaths in the country each year.
NSW Minister for Finance, Services and Property Dominic Perrottet said adjustments to the Dust Diseases Board should have a positive impact on claimants.
"There will be no changes to the level of compensation benefits received by victims, no changes to the application process and no changes to the assessment of claims," he explained.
"This is about making the process better and easier for workers affected by asbestos-related illnesses."
The importance of faster claims
The speed at which lung diseases can progress means many people who suffer from mesothelioma and similar illnesses die within one year of diagnosis.
Therefore, it's crucial for claimants to access compensation as quickly as possible in order to benefit from payouts before their death. Family members of the victim can continue a claim following their loved one's death, but the process must have been started while they were still alive.
As such, people should contact an experienced workers' compensation lawyer as quickly as possible after diagnosis to ensure the claims process can proceed.
"Many asbestos affected workers are critically ill and faster claim times are essential to ensuring they can access urgent medical treatment and obtain peace of mind that they and their families will be cared for," Mr Perrottet stated.
"Additionally, victims support groups and other key stakeholders, will have more of [a] say on how asbestos victims are helped through membership of the Advisory Committee."
According to Mr Perrottet, members of the Dust Diseases Board can apply for a place on the new Advisory Committee. He welcomed applications and encouraged employers and their representatives to play an active role in the upcoming changes.