In the wake of multiple silicosis cases around Australia, Slater and Gordon has announced it’s preparing a national class action against the manufacturers of popular kitchen stone benchtops. The class action would aim to hold the engineered stone manufacturers accountable for the harm their products have caused. If it succeeds, the silicosis victims would receive a financial contribution to their current compensation.
In Victoria, the dry cutting of the engineered stone is now banned. On 20 August this year, WorkSafe Victoria announced that the uncontrolled dry cutting of engineered stone is now allowed only when on-tool water suppression or dust extraction devices are used, along with appropriate respiratory protection equipment.
Victoria has also tightened the national standards for silica exposure. In July, at the meeting of state and federal workplace safety regulators it was agreed to bring the silica exposure standard from 0.1 milligrams of airborne particles per cubic metre to 0.05mg/m3.
NSW has followed suit. The state government has recently announced it would also move to halve the allowable amount of silica in the air from 0.1mg/m3 to 0.05mg/m3. In addition, the state’s upper house has passed a motion, with government support, to immediately consider banning the manufactured stone.
Overseas, there has been a massive win for silicosis victims in South Africa. In July this year, the High Court of South Africa in Johannesburg approved a ground-breaking settlement on behalf of Southern African gold miners suffering from the occupational lung diseases. This historic class action settlement, the first of its kind in South Africa, reflects more than a decade of preparation and litigation aimed at providing compensation to gold miners who suffered from silicosis and tuberculosis for the last 50 years.
This result paves the way for other similar claims and puts pressure on businesses in the country to take dust control aspect of workplace OHS seriously.