Tough new compliance code to protect Victorian workers from deadly silica exposure
1 May 2019
Lawyers for silicosis sufferers have today welcomed the Victorian Government’s plan to launch an unprecedented blitz on over 300 high-risk workplaces, and introduce a tough new compliance code for businesses to protect workers in the state from the deadly lung disease silicosis.
The compliance and enforcement reforms will focus on stonemasonry workshops, which pose a high risk due to the cutting and polishing of artificial stone benchtops containing high levels of silica dust.
The package contains many key reforms Maurice Blackburn has advocated for, including:
A state-wide ban on uncontrolled dry cutting of materials that contain crystalline silica dust
Free health screening for Victoria’s 1400 stonemasons
A tough new compliance code for businesses working with silica
An awareness campaign to highlight the risks of working with engineered stone.
A national push to lower the Australian silica workplace exposure standard from 0.1 mg/m3 to 0.02 mg/m3 over an eight-hour day.
Maurice Blackburn Dust Diseases senior associate Sally Weir, who is acting for a number of workers in Victoria diagnosed with silicosis, said today’s announcement was a much-needed and comprehensive reform package.
“We applaud the Andrews Government for taking these important steps to protect Victorian workers in the stonemason industry from silica dust exposure, as well assisting those already impacted through free health screening,” Ms Weir said.
She said lawyers also strongly welcomed the state government’s move to improve access to compensation for workers with silicosis through expediting compensation claims.
“Through our work, we know how difficult it can be for those diagnosed with silicosis and other related diseases to navigate their loss of wages, pain and suffering, and medical costs,” Ms Weir said.
“This can be a very difficult time for workers and their families, so it is important access to compensation is swift, so our clients can focus on their health and their families.”
“We also continue to urge all states yet to take substantive action on silicosis to act with urgency on this, including to adopt similar measures as those outlined today for Victoria and that are in place in Queensland.”