Broader QLD Black Lung inquiry needed to explore dust disease risks for workers
16 March 2017
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers have today urged a broadening of the Parliamentary inquiry into black lung to ensure that risks for workers relating to all dust diseases are properly considered, including silicosis exposure.
Maurice Blackburn Dust Diseases law expert Jonathan Walsh said that as the black lung cases had demonstrated, self-regulation had failed in detecting and eliminating risks of exposure and it was crucial that proper protections were put in place for workers not only in relation to black lung but for all types of dust diseases where workers may be at risk.
“Dr Robert Cohen’s evidence this week makes clear that black lung is not an isolated re-emergence, but in fact has likely never been eradicated and indeed has been underreported,” Mr Walsh said.
“As we have made clear in our own submission to the Parliamentary inquiry, it is critical that examination of the contributing factors around black lung helps to ensure that proper protections are put in place for workers not just in relation to black lung, but for all dust diseases.
“Dust diseases can be caused through exposure to all types of rock dust, not just coal, and there are valid concerns about the potential health impacts and possible underreporting of these for workers, including risks around silicosis.
“The Queensland Employee Injury Database has only six silicosis cases recorded that received compensation between 1992 and 2004.
“Yet given the thousands of workers who have been involved on major projects across the state both above and below ground over the past 30 years, there are questions as to whether these rates accurately reflect the incidence of silicosis in Queensland.
“This is particularly so when you consider that data from the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission suggest that between 2001 and 2003, there were 750 new cases of pneumoconiosis (including black lung, asbestosis and silicosis) in Australia and that globally in 2013, 25,000 deaths were attributed to black lung and 46,000 to silicosis.
“Given this, and the concerns raised this week by Dr Cohen, our firm would support a broadening of the current Parliamentary inquiry to look at all dust diseases more fully to ensure that the risks for workers are properly considered,” he said.