Silica dust is capable of causing scarring in the lungs that can make breathing difficult. In severe cases, silicosis can cause respiratory failure. Silicosis has also been linked to an increased risk of developing lung cancer.
Silicosis is a disease traditionally associated with tradespeople like quarry workers, tunnellers and ceramic workers, who were exposed to high levels of respirable silica dust. As occupational hygiene standards have improved, the incidence of silicosis has decreased.
However, there has been resurgence in the number of people being diagnosed with silicosis in recent years as a result of the increase in popularity of composite stone products, particularly for use as bench tops. Composite stone products have very high silica content and often contain in excess of 90% silica. In contrast, natural stone typically contains less than 40% silica. Workers who cut and grind these benchtops can be exposed to significant levels of silica dust.
The symptoms of silicosis can range from mild to very severe. Due to the high levels of silica in composite stone products, it is possible to develop acute silicosis, with severe symptoms, after just weeks or months of intense exposure to dust.
Workers who are diagnosed with silicosis in South Australia are covered by workers compensation legislation. These workers may be entitled to claim compensation for lost income, medical treatment, care and non-economic loss, depending on the extent of disease and the severity of symptoms.
Johnston Withers Lawyers has experienced dust disease and workers compensation lawyers who can assist with seeking compensation. We have offices in Adelaide, as well as Murray Bridge, Clare, Port Augusta, Roxby Downs and Whyalla.
Further information about the risks of exposure to silica dust and information on safety measures and work health and safety laws can be found at www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au and www.safework.sa.gov.au.
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