Urgent government action needed to stop silicosis epidemic
9 February 2021
Leading dust diseases law firm, Maurice Blackburn is supporting calls by the Australian Workers’ Union for tougher national regulations to protect all workers from deadly silica dust.
The AWU has launched a new campaign demanding the Federal Government impose minimum safety benchmarks and tougher penalties across all industries where workers are exposed to silica, rather than only focusing on stonemasons.
Maurice Blackburn Principal, Jonathan Walsh said that the Government’s lack of urgency in addressing the issue is threatening the lives and livelihoods of many thousands of workers.
“I’ve said previously the reforms recommended by the Government’s National Dust Diseases Taskforce’s interim report are pathetic and weak,” Mr Walsh said.
“Workers are dying but the Federal Government is effectively sitting on its hands instead of moving quickly to ensure the health and safety of workers.
“It is not enough for the Government to focus only on engineered stone when we know that other workers, such as miners and tunnellers can be similarly exposed to highly dangerous levels of silica dust and develop chronic or fatal lung conditions,” Mr Walsh said.
“All Australian workers should have what is known to be best practice when it comes to safety in their workplace – their lives and their families’ well-being shouldn’t be up for negotiation.
“Surely, Australia can do better than that.”
“Our client, Joanna McNeill is leading the union’s campaign for urgent action and is sadly suffering the consequences of lax industry safety practices when it comes to silica dust,” Mr Walsh said.
“Only 34 years old and the mother of two very young children, Joanna was diagnosed last year with silicosis after working in the mining industry.
“She wants to see tougher laws so that no other worker and their family is left in the same position simply because they did their job.”