Before the novel coronavirus pandemic necessitated shutdowns across all types of work, the New South Wales government was already enacting regulations to fight another dangerous respiratory disease: silicosis, which is caused by silica dust entering people's lungs. When work resumes at job sites that pose a silicosis risk, the new laws will be put to the test.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the NSW government will not allow workers to dry-cut manufactured stone. The regulation will be enforced by SafeWork inspectors with the authority to assess fines immediately. The ban on stone cutting is designed to get companies in line with the silica workplace exposure standard, effective July 1. From that day on, the permitted amount of silica in the air is 0.05mg per cubic metre.
In addition to the changing rules around stone cutting, NSW is introducing a dust disease register, with silicosis listed as a notifiable ailment. The Sydney Morning Herald reported silicosis affects younger people, those aged in their 40s and below. Young men who have worked with artificial stone are at particular risk, which has led to the dry cutting ban. Silicosis has the potential to kill its sufferers, and as such, the government felt the need to act quickly.
A previous Sydney Morning Herald report on the subject described a "deadly upswing" in silicosis cases, with 70 coming in the first half of the financial year. With members of parliament calling the disease a preventable issue created by danger in the workplace, it was a matter of time before tougher laws were enacted. There is a $100 million fund already set aside for workers compensation claims, as the NSW government anticipates many people contracted the disease before the ban was enacted.
If you or a loved one is suffering from a disease stemming from dust inhalation at work, you may have grounds for a workers' compensation claim. The dust disease scenarios covered by the law go beyond silica issues, and also include asbestos exposure or inhalation of straw or hay. Whether your exposure took place decades ago or are a worker who has recently been exposed to silica dust, you can speak with an established and experienced solicitor to begin the claims process.
If you can produce medical evidence of a chronic lung disease and conclusively link that issue to harmful particle exposure, your case may lead to an award of damages. To determine what the next steps are in pursuing a case, reach out for free over-the-phone advice from an experienced public liability lawyer with Gerard Malouf & Partners at 1 800 004 878.