New South Wales has seen a dramatic surge in dust disease cases in recent years and has prompted the government to quickly boost public education about the dangers of working with manufactured stone.
Dust disease from silica exposure has been a well-known (and preventable) occupational health hazard in the sandblasting, tunnelling and mining industries for many years. Currently there is no known treatment that can arrest the progression of the disease, and some workers may eventually need a lung transplant.
In early March, state government figures revealed there were 70 new cases in the first half of this financial year which is significantly higher than the numbers so far reported. Nine cases were reported in each of the financial years of 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2017-18. Six cases were detected in 2016-17. The numbers started to jump in 2018-19 when 40 cases were detected and reached 70 in the first half of 2019-20 when 90 cases of asbestos-related diseases were reported.
Dr. Nick Allsop, an executive manager from icare, the state government agency that oversees insurance and care in NSW, said the “large increase” in silicosis cases this financial year was related to a dramatic increase in screening.
“The good side of it is we are picking up people who previously would not have been picked up,” Allsop told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Greens MP, David Shoebridge, described the upsurge of silicosis cases as “an epidemic that is 100% preventable and it is caused by dangerous workplaces.”
“This is a deeply concerning jump in the number of workers being diagnosed with a potentially terminal disease,” Shoebridge told the news source. “We need an immediate ban on dry cutting manufactured stone and a timeline to prohibit its sale in the very near future. If a product kills the people who work with it then it shouldn’t be available for sale especially when there are so many safe alternatives.”
Labor MP, Daniel Mookhey, said NSW needs a comprehensive strategy to tackle the silicosis crisis.
It has been reported that a $100 million has been reserved in an icare fund for workers compensation claims related to silica and other non-asbestos related diseases.
If you or a loved one has been affected by dust disease, you should speak with a compensation specialist right away. The team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers can help. Contact us for a free consultation today.