Ann-Maree Pascoli discussing silica and asbestos exposure
Ann-Maree Pascoli providing Q & A on the 2GB Chris Smith Afternoon Show discussing silica and asbestos exposure - 25 June 2019
Tuesday, 25 June 2019
CS– Chris Smith / Ann-Maree Pascoli – C1,2,3, etc – Callers
CS We are talking about dust today, not stylis ? dust which was the topic of conversation with one of our listeners just a short time ago and it is something that none of us can totally avoid but some dust is more dangerous than others especially dust that can emerge from work sites for houses and as you know asbestos is a huge issue with many older homes containing the material, but there are other dusts such as silica often found in stone bench tops that we have discovered in recent years can cause serious health problems, so what are your rights if you become exposed to dangerous dust while working, or what if you are exposed to it accidentally? What if the neighbour’s house contains asbestos and you inadvertently inhaled that dust because of the way the wind was blowing one afternoon and the work was being done on the house next door? That is what we are talking about on our legal matters segment today and as you know we will answers your calls, as many as we can get to as quick as we can. 131873 is the telephone number and one of our callers this afternoon will get a $100 Westfield voucher to give away alright so we will give away a $100 Westfield voucher to one of our callers between now and 2pm. Turner Freeman lawyers provides a range of specialised legal services, compensation and negligence law, asbestos litigation, superannuation and disability claims, employment law, wills and estates and property law. Ann-Maree Pascoli is a senior associate at Turner Freeman at the Parramatta office in Sydney and specialises in dust diseases litigation, medical negligence and public liability claims. I have got her on the line right now. Hi there Ann-Maree.
AP Hi Chris.
CS Dust disease seems like a very big umbrella. What sort of diseases are we talking about here?
AP Chris there are so many. The types of disease that are caused by asbestos might include asbestosis, benign asbestos related pleural disease, mesothelioma, lung cancer and then you’ve got things like silicosis, progressive massive fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the list is pretty long.
CS Just how common are some of these diseases and what are the most common?
AP In my experience certainly the most common now are things like mesothelioma, the benign diseases are not so common in recent times because of the regulation that happened in the 1980s and 1990s so the quantities of dust that workers were exposed to consequently reduced which reduced the incidents of benign disease but in recent times we have seen a resurgence of silicosis.
CS What precisely is silicosis?
AP So silicosis is a condition that’s caused by the inhalation of silica dust and silica dust is found in naturally occurring stones such as sandstones, it is found in concrete and in recent times we have found a resurgence in the condition because of the use of engineered stone so things like caesarstone and they contain much higher quantities of silica than naturally occurring stone.
CS So caesarstone, well I’ve got a caesarstone benchtop at home and I have got a few chips in them and some people have come into my home and said you’ve got to watch those chips. What do they mean?
AP Well I don’t know whether the chips themselves would be much of a problem. The problems are caused primarily when workers who are installing benchtops or cutting out pieces of the benchtop.
CS And frequently…
AP Frequently, so you know if the stone is being cut, if it’s being ground, it produces very fine dust that is inhaled.
CS Ok. On the subject let’s go to Tony who is our first caller, first cab off the rank. Hi there Tony, Ann-Maree is listening.
AP Hello Tony.
C1 Hi, my ex father in law’s dad died from asbestosis because he actually worked at Wonderlec Tiles and back in the day they were made from asbestos. So several years later and I’m talking about a lot of years later um his wife got asbestosis as well and they put it down to the fact that for all those years she was washing his overalls, and because he would come home literally covered in this dust which they didn’t know what it was, she would be breathing it in as she was washing them.
CS She was putting them into the washing machine the laundry would be full of dust right?
C1 Exactly right. So she was breathing it in for several years later not knowing anything and then all of a sudden she got symptoms and then when they checked her out, they found she was riddled with it because of that same reason.
AP Unfortunately quite common Tony. We see a lot of this claims.
C1 So it is common?
AP Yeah, particularly I mean the claims that we see a lot more of now are claims by women who have washed overalls and work clothes of their husbands who have worked with asbestos.
C1 Yeah right, it’s very sad. They just didn’t know I guess in those days did they?
AP Well that’s arguable.
CS Well that’s up to the lawyer to prove her case isn’t it Ann-Maree?
CS How much did they know and what warnings did they give to the consumer?
AP Absolutely. That’s exactly right.
CS Thanks Tony for your call. What rights do workers have when working with materials like silica?
AP Well a worker has potentially two sets of entitlements, the first if you’ve been exposed as a consequence of work in NSW is through icare which was formerly the Dust Diseases Board so they, if you are entitled to compensation you’ll have rights to a pension and also payment of things like medical expenses and then if we can prove negligence on the part of your employer or a manufacturer then you potentially have a common law claim as well so that’s a court claim that is brought in the Dust Disease Tribunal.
CS Right. We’ve got to take some more calls on this and we will do so just after a break and I want to talk about contracting such a disease but when the employer has presumably done everything they possibly can to protect the worker. It obviously still happens without really bosses meaning for it to occur to their employees. I’ll talk about that as well. Right after the break for Turner Freeman legal matters. Peter go for your life? Pete?
C2 Yeah hi, I’d just like to ask a question. I work in a company and we used to use a lot of asbestos but that company closed years ago. I was just wondering is there any way I can still register or any comeback at all, we used to use a lot of asbestos and trikoefilyne which is also really carcinogenic.
AP It is. Peter, absolutely there are steps that we can take to restore companies that are no longer trading. It requires a bit of work, it’s quite complex but it is something that we do quite regularly and additionally the fact that the company is no longer around won’t impact any potential dust board entitlements that you have either.
C2 Oh right, that’s basically what I wanted to know.
CS You need to get a little bit of advice by the sound of it Pete.
C2 Yeah I probably would actually.
CS Ok firstly I have got a $100 Westfield voucher for you.
C2 Oh thank you.
CS $100 Westfield voucher and I am going to put you through to Hansell and we are going to hook you up with Ann-Maree, you can do as you wish with her advice and maybe there is a case there you may want to pursue. Alright?
C2 Yes. Thank you very much.
CS Thank you. Let’s put Pete through to Hansell and do all of that. I have got another Peter on line. Hi Peter.
C3 Chris, how are you?
CS Very well. Ann-Maree is listening.
C3 Hello Ann-Maree. Yeah I worked for the Sydney Water Board back in the early 70s and dust, silicosis was a problem then for the state government in the 50s and 60s so I dont know whether you were aware of it.
CS How? Connected to what?
C3 Ah with the water board using jack picks and jack hammers. They used to have safety officers coming around when you were using a jack pick and have an atmospheric microscope and check the atmosphere around you when you were working these pieces of equipment and if you’ve ever seen silicosis under a microscope it’s frightening, they are little fractionally sized glass fish hooks and that’s what hooks in your lungs and it is the most painful death. The state government has been aware of this for years Chris and Ann-Maree, you know what I mean. They’ve got problems now on these main road jobs, they’ve got these tunnel boring machines, let’s just hope they are doing the right thing there with the dust collection because it is not only off benchtops, and I tell a lot of the young guys I’ve been working in the building trade for more than 40 years, do you know what is silicosis is and they look at you like clarence the cross eyed lion. They don’t know, they’ve only just started teaching at the tech again, um because it is prepped in. It’s a bit like black lung disease in the mines in QLD that’s come in. You know….
AP I think you’re 100% right Peter, it’s not just from cutting stone that people are getting silicosis, there are lots of other ways that people can be exposed and certainly even when precautions are taken so I have clients who work in environments where there are dust extraction systems but if those systems are inadequate you can still contract these diseases.
CS Well that was my final question, what if the boss, the company is doing everything imaginable to protect its workers and they still contract some of these diseases.
AP It depends Chris, so it will depend on the circumstances of each case, how long they’ve been exposed and over what period and what the employer has actually been doing so I’ve got a claim for a client at the moment who was working as a stonemason for about three years and his employer took precautions but the filters in the dust masks weren’t changed frequently enough, they weren’t available enough so even though there were systems in place those systems were still inadequate to stop the dust, to stop them from inhaling the dust.
CS I do have another caller who I cannot get to because I have run out of time, I couldn’t possibly do this in 15 seconds but he has just gone off the board, John was his name. John if you want to call back on 131873 we can put you in touch with Ann-Maree and maybe your query, your predicament could be dealt with by Ann-Maree Pascoli. Ann-Maree thank you very much for your time this afternoon.
AP Thank you Chris.
CS Senior Associate at Turner Freeman’s Parramatta office.