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Mine dust disease sufferers set to benefit from changes

By Sally Heathcote

The NSW Government introduced the Workers Compensation (Dust Diseases) Amendment Bill 2022 to support the operation of the Dust Diseases Care Scheme.

The scheme provides financial compensation and health care support to people affected by work-related dust diseases.

If passed, the Bill will simplify benefit calculations and remove some old anomalies, ultimately easing the administrative burden on injured workers and their families.

All current benefit rates will be protected and there will be no reduction in entitlements.

NSW Minister for Finance, Damien Tudehope, says, “the passing of these amendments will contribute to improving the customer experience for workers in the Scheme by removing any potential ambiguity over their entitlements and simplify the calculation of benefits for historical claims.”

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Mine dust lung disease is a broad term used to identify a range of work-related lung diseases caused by exposure to harmful levels of respirable dust at mines and quarries.

This includes mixed dust pneumoconiosis, silicosis (a form of pneumoconiosis from silica dust) and cancer.

These diseases are progressive, meaning they get worse over time and for most people it takes prolonged periods of exposure for symptoms to develop.

Exceptions do apply and some workers notice early signs of disease sooner. This can be due to the level of dust and individual susceptibility.

While Minister Tudehope summarised the promised changes as, “an effort to modernise the Scheme with the interests of those who are gravely ill at the heart of these changes.”
Whilst no doubt true, it is also clear that prevention is by far the best medicine and it seems that the situation may be improving.

The Cancer Council Queensland found that across 2019/2020 coal miners in Queensland suffered 2.1 cases per 1000 coal mine workers, including both underground and surface miners.

This compares to international averages of 34.5 cases for underground miners, and 18 cases for surface miners per 1000 coal mine workers.

Data aside, for just one person it is an horrific side effect of going to work to earn a honest living and the changes will no doubt be welcomed by families affected.

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