What is Silicosis?

Silica dust is a silent killer that can cause irreversible injury, inflammation and scarring to the lung tissue, otherwise known as silicosis. Silicosis is a debilitating and incurable lung disease. It can often result in loss of lung function and breathlessness with scarring to continue and progress long after the exposure to crystalline silica dust.

Australian workers in construction, engineering, mining, demolition and manufactured stone industries are at the highest risk of being exposed to silica dust and fibre as crystalline silica is a common and naturally occurring mineral found in sandstone, engineered or manmade stone products, granite, marble, concrete, brick, quartz and sand. The dust is released by cutting, grinding, trimming, sanding, crushing, polishing or drilling materials which contain silica.

These particles once inhaled, can cause silicosis. Unlike asbestos related diseases, the impact of silicosis can be seen from a young age, with people aged in their twenties and thirties suffering from the disease. It is destroying the lives of many young Australians. The impact can be devastating for workers, as there is no known cure for silicosis and in serious instances, it can cause death.

New Regulations in South Australia

Fortunately, the disease is entirely preventable if the appropriate action is taken. The recent changes by SafeWork Australia in work health and safety laws have encouraged new regulations in South Australia. Under the new regulations, it will be an offence for an employer or supervisor to allow a worker to process engineered stone without specific control measures in place to minimise the risk of silica dust inhalation.

Control measures include workers being provided with mandatory respiratory protective equipment and use a dust control system such as a water suppressant or exhaust ventilation when they are cutting, grinding, trimming, sanding, crushing, polishing or drilling engineered stone products that contain crystalline silica processes.

The new regulations are a positive and proactive step to protect the health and safety of workers, both in the present and in the future.

Get in Touch with Us

At Turner Freeman, we have specialist dust diseases lawyers who will assess your case and provide personalised advice regarding your legal entitlements. Our lawyers are located across South Australia, including at our offices in Adelaide, Aberfoyle Park and Whyalla. We also travel to see clients at hospitals and their homes.

If you or someone you know is diagnosed with silicosis, there may be an entitlement to compensation. If you would like to obtain advice about your entitlements and/or wish to investigate a potential claim for compensation, please contact our dust diseases team on 08 8213 1000.