If your job involves exposure to brick, cement or stone dust or if you work in stonemasonry, you need to learn more about silicosis.  It is an illness classified by some doctors as worse than asbestosis and threats of a major national outbreak may take place.

Silicosis Defined

It is the scarring of the pleura, a thin tissue covering the lungs, caused by overexposure to silica dust.

Silica is a trace mineral often found in modern buildings and construction materials such as bricks, concrete, asphalt, terracotta tiles and pavers, sandstone and granite.

Silica is perfectly safe in its concrete form but like asbestos, it is dangerous when breathed in as dust.

The symptoms of silicosis include:

  • shortness of breath
  • weight loss
  • fatigue
  • chest pain and
  • cough

The illness can be deadly or can lead to tuberculosis and lung cancer.  Silica dust is also associated with other health issues such as kidney impairment and chronic bronchitis.
People working stonemasonry and construction and mining industries are at risk of silicosis, authorities say.

Usually, it takes more than 10 years of exposure to develop, however, workers who have high-level exposure to silica dust may develop silicosis at a shorter period of time.

Silicosis Prevention And Risk

According to Desiderius Erasmus – “Prevention is better than cure.”

Currently, there is no known cure for silicosis, the only way to stop the illness is by preventing it.

In a 2018 survey of Queensland’s stone industry, it revealed that 98 workers acquired silicosis and 15 were believed to be fatal.

A Gold Coast stonemason, Anthony White, died earlier this year and Steven Miles, the state’s health minister has warned of a possible nationwide outbreak.

Meanwhile, some doctors have categorised the illness as worse than asbestosis due to its earlier effects in people’s lives.  A 23-year-old from Queensland was the youngest person diagnosed with the illness while asbestosis usually only develop later in life.

Involving in selling products that lead to silicosis may have legal liabilities that is why Product Liability Insurance is essential for your business and it is important that you have the right one.

According to experts, anyone in contact with silica dust usually about 10 years or longer, is at risk of silicosis including anyone in a workplace where dust from stone, bricks or cement is common whether from grinding, drilling, cutting or blasting,
The Queensland audit, however, reveals stonemasons are especially vulnerable, as the levels of exposure to silica dust are particularly higher compared to other industries such as mining and construction.

There is currently no available cure for silicosis, so the only way to stop the disease is prevention.

What You Need To Know As Employers

As employers, your duty is to protect your staff and failure to do so may be significantly costly.

Queensland’s stonemason industry audit shows the widespread safety issues for an unsuitable workplace with 552 breach notices subjected to cleaning practices.

Considering other legal fees and liabilities, an employee’s lawsuit (an employee contracting silicosis) could definitely cost the business hundreds of thousands of dollars that is why it is paramount to have the correct worker’s compensation insurance for your business.

Protect Your Employees From Silicosis

There are simple ways to protect your employees.  As a matter of fact, research shows that by using local exhaust ventilation or wetting dust to hamper it can bring the levels down by 99 percent other than eliminating the risk to staff.

Some authorities suggest the use of tools fitted with either collecting bags or dust with water attachments to hamper dust. Avoid sand where possible.  Large machinery must be fitted with
Large machinery should be fitted with functional air filtration systems and businesses should look for substitute materials with lower silica counts like stone benchtops.

For enquiries on Product Liability Insurance and Worker’s Compensation Insurance, talk to an ARMA Insurance Broker now.

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