This submission focuses on the epidemic of silicosis in stone-masons. In so doing, the AIOH will try to identify factors that may have contributed to the current situation. Also, given that the most effective way of tackling silicosis is to prevent exposure to silica dust, the AIOH will suggest ways in which dust exposure can be controlled to acceptable levels.
The AIOH thanks the NSW Government for opportunity to make a submission to the review of the Dust Diseases Scheme. It is noted from the terms of reference that on 24 June 2019, the committee resolved that the 2019 review of the Dust Diseases scheme focus on the response to silicosis in the manufactured stone industry in New South Wales.
We note that the Committee’s role is primarily to review the operation of the Workers’ Compensation (Dust Diseases) Scheme. In making this submission, AIOH will not be discussing provision of compensation as such, as these matters are outside of our expertise.
However, there are a number of issues related to prevention of dust diseases, that we believe are relevant to this review and these
form the basis of this submission. It is probably fair to say that the recent outbreak of silicosis in stone masons engaged in the polishing
and cutting engineered stone shocked many Australians. Media reports, such as those on ABC 7.30, graphically demonstrated the personal impact of the disease on workers. Particularly shocking was the rapid onset of the disease after exposure: just a matter of 3 – 5 years in some cases, which meant that many victims were relatively young and parents of young families. The first fatality has also been recorded, in a 36 year old stone mason from the Gold Coast2 and the youngest victim is reported to be just 22 years old.
The re-emergence of silicosis, a disease first described in antiquity and known about for centuries, represents a failure of prevention and systems for early detection which parallels the re-emergence of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis in Australia, and is totally unacceptable in 2018.
This submission will focus on the epidemic of silicosis in stone-masons. In so doing, the AIOH will try to identify factors that may have contributed to the current situation. Also, given that the most effective way of tackling silicosis is to prevent exposure to silica dust, the AIOH will suggest ways in which dust exposure can be controlled to acceptable levels. The AIOH would also like to explore ways in which in we can work with the NSW Dust Diseases Board (icare) to achieve optimal outcomes for workers exposed to silica dust.
© 2022 Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists, Inc. ® | PO Box 2124, Gladstone Park VIC 3043 | ABN 50 423 289 752
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