Silicosis has maintained its place on Safe Work Australia’s list of deemed diseases, which highlights the occupational risk of deadly silica dust.
Safe Work Australia recently reviewed the 2015 Deemed Diseases in Australia Report and revised the List of Deemed Diseases in Australia and Supporting Guidance Material.
The purpose of the review was to ensure the report reflected the latest scientific evidence.
COVID, cancers and PTSD were added to the deemed diseases list while silicosis maintained its place under respiratory diseases.
Meanwhile, scleroderma, which has been connected to silica dust, was considered not appropriate to be included as a deemed disease.
Other respiratory diseases on the Revised List of Deemed Diseases in Australia include occupational asthma, coal workers’ pneumoconiosis and asbestosis.
The high exposure risk of silica dust in terms of occupation and industry was highlighted in connection to carcinoma of the lung and pneumoconioses.
“Silica dust (crystalline): Exposure can occur to workers involved in construction, especially excavators; mining; brick, concrete or stone cutting; abrasive blasting; foundry casting,” the report said.
The report provides evidence-based information on a list of diseases and occupational exposures, for consideration by workers’ compensation jurisdictions when reviewing the deemed diseases lists in their workers’ compensation legislation.
What Is Silica Dust, And Why Is it So Deadly?
There may be hazards where you work that can expose you to occupational illness.
One of those is silica dust, which is harmful when inhaled into your lungs.
But what exactly is silica dust?
Crystalline silica is naturally found in stone, rock, sand, gravel and clay, and products such as bricks, tiles, concrete, artificial stone benchtops and some plastic materials.
When these materials are worked on, the silica is released as fine dust. This dust is respirable crystalline silica (commonly called silica dust).
Why is it so dangerous?
When workers cut, crush, drill, polish, saw or grind products that contain silica, dust particles are generated that are small enough to lodge deep in the lungs and cause illness or disease, including silicosis. It is 100 times smaller than a grain of sand, so you can be breathing it without knowing.
If a worker is exposed to and breathes in silica dust, they could develop:
- chronic bronchitis
- acute silicosis
- can develop after a short exposure to very high levels of silica dust, within a few weeks or years, and causes severe inflammation and an outpouring of protein into the lung
- accelerated silicosis
- can develop after exposures of 3 to 10 years to moderate to high levels of silica dust and causes inflammation, protein in the lung and scarring of the lung (fibrotic nodules)
- chronic silicosis
- can develop after long term exposure to lower levels of silica dust and causes fibrotic nodules and shortness of breath
- can include progressive massive fibrosis where the fibrotic nodules in the lung aggregate
- lung cancer
- kidney damage, or
- a disease of the connective tissue of the body resulting in the formation of scar tissue in the skin, joints and other organs of the body.
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