WorkSafe responds to rising silica-related disease diagnoses

With silicosis diagnoses on the rise, WorkSafe has reviewed their "proclaimed diseases list" to make the process clearer and faster for affected individuals.

We are all now all too familiar with the engineered stone legacy – silicosis. An incurable and progressive lung disease which causes inflammation and scarring, silicosis has been identified in many stonemasons, young and old, throughout Victoria since WorkSafe commenced screening of Victoria’s 1,400 stonemasons in 2019.

Following the state-wide screeding was the development of the Alfred Occupational Respiratory Clinic in July 2021 where workers can access diagnostic tools and expert respiratory doctors by attending one clinic rather than requiring subsequent referrals and multiple appointments. WorkSafe funding of this partnership will continue to July 2026.

With the increase in disease diagnosis, we have seen the increase in WorkCover claims and WorkSafe has received over 630 silicosis-related compensation claims. This has led to WorkSafe also reviewing their list of proclaimed diseases, making the compensation process clearer and quicker.

What is a proclaimed disease?

Under the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013, the Victorian Government can declare, or “proclaim” that certain diseases are due to the worker’s employment without the worker or dependent of a worker has proven that work contributed to the disease.

Whilst silicosis with or without pulmonary tuberculosis was on the list of proclaimed diseases, WorkSafe has reviewed this list and added lung cancer with silicosis and scleroderma with silicosis.

How does this affect a WorkCover claim?

Including silicosis on the “proclaimed diseases list” means that workers exposed to silica dust at work, such as stonemasons, and are diagnosed with lung cancer with silicosis and scleroderma with silicosis do not need to prove that their injuries were caused by their employment as it will be automatically deemed to be caused by the nature of their work.

What do practitioners need to know about changes to proclaimed diseases lists

Anyone who has been diagnosed with silicosis should seek legal advice but it is important for health practitioners who are working with patients with diseases which may be caused by their work, to know that compensation may be readily available for their patients.

Special provisions also apply to workers with conditions such silicosis. This includes not needing to prove an injury has stabilised to access lump sum payments and the ability to make subsequent applications for lump sum payments if the disease progresses.

 

The areas of dust diseases and WorkCover are both highly specialised areas of law that require particular expertise. If you or a friend or family member have been diagnosed with a dust disease or exposed to silica, it is important to obtain legal advice as soon as possible so that you are aware of your entitlements and can access compensation early and focus on your health and well-being.

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