Posted on 19 Sep 2018
Dust disease experts Slater and Gordon have applauded the Palaszczuk Government’s decision to mandate strict bans on the dry cutting, grinding or polishing of artificial engineered stone bench tops following increases in silica-related illness across the state.
Slater and Gordon today supported the Queensland Government’s calls for a national response to reducing the devastating impact of the deadly dust.
In Parliament this morning, Minister for Industrial Relations Grace Grace announced the ban, mandating strict regulations in order to reduce exposure, including wet cutting, appropriate ventilation, the use of isolation and physical barriers and respiratory protective equipment.
The announcement also includes an audit of all relevant Queensland businesses by the end of the year to ensure their silica-cutting measures met new safety requirements.
Ms Grace said from this week, there would be 22 specially trained Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) inspectors on conducting audits, with all 150 manufacturers to be audited by the end of the year.
Last December and after acting for a number of people affected by the substance, Slater and Gordon launched the country’s first National Silicosis Register, which allows people to register potential exposure and assist them to access appropriate medical and financial support.
The register will also collect data and increased knowledge of the exposures that lead to the disease.
Slater and Gordon dust diseases lawyer David Agudelo said silica had been present in small doses in bricks and concrete in Australia for decades, but in the past 17 years has been in much higher concentrations in materials, such as benchtops.
Mr Agudelo said silica-based items were often cut in the construction industry, emitting tiny particles, which once lodged in a person’s lungs and can result in life-threatening illness such as silicosis and scleroderma.
He said there were unfortunately almost no available medical therapies with symptoms including phlegm build up, chest pain and breathing difficulties with more acute cases presenting with fever, weight loss and fatigue, which can often become life-threatening
“The Queensland Government has today taken an important step in reducing the impact of this substance, which can have devastating effects on a sufferer and their loved ones,” Mr Agudelo said.
“Unlike other dangerous dusts such as asbestos, silica-related illness can begin to show symptoms within a couple of years consequently hitting people as early as their 20s and 30s.
“The renovation revolution across Australia is now seeing a new wave of people exposed to dangerous amounts of Crystalline Silica from the use of power tools to cut, grind and drill into artificial stone for bathroom and kitchen bench tops.
“We need to emphasise that damage can be done to the lungs before symptoms are obvious.
“If you think you have been exposed to Silica we would encourage you to register your exposure to protect your rights,” Mr Agudelo said.