NSW silicosis laws need reform, MP says, as stonemason calls for change

2020-10-16

New laws designed to prevent the lung disease silicosis will come too late for former stonemason Kyle Goodwin, but he hopes future generations of construction workers and miners will be protected.

The Tenterfield, New South Wales resident, who worked the engineered stone commonly used in modern kitchen benchtops, was diagnosed with advanced silicosis two years ago.

The disease is caused by exposure to silica, which is released as dust particles when engineered stone is cut, drilled and polished.

Doctors have given the 35-year-old between five and 10 years to live.

“I’m trying to keep it out of my mind — if you live thinking you only have five years left, you’re not going to have much of a life,” Mr Goodwin said.

“I couldn’t even count how many people I know who have been diagnosed, and they’re young guys with young families who may not live to see their children grow up.

“For those of us who are already diagnosed, given there’s no cure, there’s no real hope.

Stricter measures proposed

A proposed amendment to the Work Health and Safety Act is before NSW Parliament, calling for the establishment of a dust diseases register like that in Queensland.

Labor’s Daniel Mookhey introduced the amendment, which he said took a tougher approach than reforms introduced by the Government in July that made silicosis a notifiable disease in NSW.

“Under the NSW Government’s proposal, all that happens is that NSW Health can, if they choose, exchange information with the regulator, and they can withhold that information from the regulator and they can withhold it in secret,” he said.

“Under the proposal we’re pushing, NSW Health must inform the regulator every time a person is occupationally exposed to silica dust and diagnosed with silicosis, and the regulator has to investigate that notification.

“Equally, the number of notifications would be public … when it comes to something as deadly as silicosis, the imperative is to give the public more information, not less.”

Full Article

ABC News, 16 October 2020
; https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-16/silicosis-push-to-protect-workers-from-deadly-lung-disease/12748468