The Victorian Government has introduced new measures to ensure that workers affected by crystalline silica dust to access critical care. Lung cancer with silicosis and scleroderma with silicosis are now on the state’s list of proclaimed diseases, which means they are deemed to have been caused by a worker’s employment.
Stonemasons and other workers involved in the cutting and handling of engineered stone who contract either illness will no longer be required to prove a workplace injury to be eligible for compensation. The motive behind the scheme is to ensure that workers suffering from the diseases are more easily able to access entitlements, including medical expenses and lost wages.
Silicosis is a proclaimed disease in Victoria for workers exposed to the dust. The change applies to new and existing silicosis claimants and includes any affected workers and their dependents to submit compensation claims retrospectively.
WorkSafe recently reviewed the proclaimed diseases as part of the Government’s broader silica action plan, which included the ban on dry cutting. The plan also means new compliance codes for businesses and an Australia-first licensing scheme for engineered stone products, along with a specialist silica-focused WorkSafe team.
More than 85% of past and present stonemasons have registered for the state’s silica health assessment program, which is free, and allows testing for associated auto-immune diseases such as scleroderma.
Minister for Workplace Safety Ingrid Stitt explained that “We’re taking tough action to ensure employers are protecting workers from this silent killer – but it’s also important that there’s a strong safety net in place for workers that do get injured.”
“A diagnosis of a silica-related illness can have a devastating impact on workers and their families. This change will help ensure they get quicker access to the compensation they need.”