NSW failing to take silicosis epidemic seriously

2 December 2019
Leading dust diseases law firm, Maurice Blackburn has accused the NSW government of failing the state’s stone workers by not doing enough to address the silicosis epidemic.

SafeWork NSW claims it has left “no stone unturned” when it comes to silicosis, but Maurice Blackburn Principal, Jonathan Walsh says there is scant detail on even the number of workers affected by silicosis in NSW.

“There are thousands of workers exposed to silica dust in NSW alone, but there are no figures on how many people have been diagnosed with silicosis, the debilitating and often life-threatening chronic lung condition.

“According to a recent submission to a NSW parliamentary committee, not even the medical experts know exactly how many silicosis diagnoses there are in NSW,” Mr Walsh said.

“It’s time the NSW government took this issue seriously and immediately conducted a full audit and publicly released the figures so the true extent of the epidemic can be understood and planning can get underway to deal with it.”

In addition, Maurice Blackburn is calling on SafeWork NSW to reveal the precise nature of its so-called “health monitoring” of workers conducted in the last two years, particularly in light of recent medical research.

“It’s not clear if SafeWork NSW’s idea of “health monitoring” is simply a questionnaire or a thorough lung function analysis and CT scanning.

“This is particularly concerning when just recently the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists reported that not even chest X-rays are reliable in detecting the disease when compared to CT scans,” Mr Walsh said.

“The earlier the diagnosis, the more assistance can be offered to the worker who may still be a young adult or has a family to support.”

“It is important that all Australian governments, including the NSW government, do their utmost to protect the well-being of workers and for that reason Maurice Blackburn believes the recommended exposure limit of silica dust in the workplace should be further reduced to the lowest possible level.”

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