There are calls to expand the list of work-related lung disorders eligible for government compensation in NSW, amid concerns many with life-threatening conditions are missing out.
There are 13 dust diseases for which workers can receive financial and health care support under the state’s icare scheme, based on legislation dating back to 1942.
Advocates argue the list is out-of-date and does not include the types of lung disorders workers are developing as a result of exposure to hazards in modern workplaces, despite these conditions being recognised by medicine and common law.
Currently some 95% of the 4000 supported by the scheme have an asbestos-related condition.
With a review into the scheme underway, the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand calls for an expansion of the list to include occupational asthma (including reactive airway dysfunction (RADS) occupationally exacerbated asthma, all occupational-related lung cancers, dust-induced pulmonary fibrosis, COPD related to dust, fume and mist exposure, work-related pneumonia related to occupational exposures.
“These disorders are successfully identified and compensated in other countries, particularly in Europe and Canada,” the submission said.
The reforms should also address a hole in data collection on occupational lung disorders, with consideration given to mandatory reporting of cases, and establishment of a new tribunal to hear appeals.
Law firm Maurice Blackburn echoes the call to expand the list of compensable diseases, arguing in a submission that it’s “irrational” that those suffering from occupation lung disorders recognised by medicine – and common law – can’t access the scheme.
There are “significant and unfair differences” between the scheme and related legislation, compared to the processes which enable common law proceedings for damages for dust-related conditions to be brought before the Dust Diseases Tribunal of New South Wales.
Many clients approach the law firm with end-stage illness.
“We see the stress and anguish unnecessarily imposed on them and their families because the unrealistic timelines to register for compensation could mean they lose the opportunity to secure their family’s future economic dignity.”
The second hearing for the First review of the dust diseases scheme took place on June 28.