*The contents in this blog relates to legislation in New South Wales.

Silica refers to crystalline silica or silicon dioxide, a naturally occurring and widely abundant mineral that forms the major component of most rocks and soils. Respirable silica dust particles are small enough to penetrate the lung and cause irreversible damage.

The dust is released by cutting, crushing, polishing or drilling materials which contain silica – including but not limited to sandstone, engineered or manmade stone products, granite, marble, concrete, brick, quartz and sand. Silica is used to make a variety of products including composite stone used to fabricate kitchen and bathroom benchtops, bricks, tiles and some plastics.

Historically, the workers most likely to be exposed to silica dust were quarry workers or miners, or jack pick and jackhammer operators who drilled through sandstone rock for foundations.

More recently, stonemasons and other workers who work regularly with composite stone are most likely to be exposed to high quantities of silica dust.

Silicosis is a pneumoconioses which causes inflammation and scarring of the lung tissue. Silicosis is caused by exposure to silica dust. This condition causes restriction in the lungs, which usually leads to breathlessness. Silicosis can range in severity. Mild forms may cause very minimal symptoms, whilst severe cases can be terminal and require 24 hour oxygen. These conditions can worsen over time.

So long as we are able to show that a person’s condition of silicosis has caused some respiratory impairment or disability, then you may have an entitlement to compensation. This is the case even where the silicosis is not the only cause of the respiratory disability or impairment.

In New South Wales compensation is available through the New South Wales Dust Diseases Tribunal. In addition, for eligible people a pension and the payment of medical expenses is available from iCare Dust Diseases Care.

People who suffer from silicosis who were exposed to dangerous dust in the course of their employment in New South Wales can lodge a claim with iCare Dust Diseases Care and at the same time can bring a claim at common law in the Dust Diseases Tribunal. These avenues of compensation are not exclusive.

If you or your family member is diagnosed with silicosis, there may be an entitlement to compensation. Turner Freeman has the largest and most experienced dust diseases practice in Australia, and we can provide you with expert advice about your potential entitlements. Get in touch with us today on 13 43 63.