In the 20th Century, Asbestos was widely used in Australia for many industrial and domestic applications. If microscopic fiber fragments of Asbestos become airborne and are inhaled, they irritate the lung tissue around them, causing a number of diseases. Due to their size and shape they can remain airborne for some time and enter even the smallest air passages in the lungs where they embed in lung tissue.

Following are some types of dust diseases which include but are not limited to:

  • pleural disease;
  • asbestosis;
  • lung cancer; and
  • mesothelioma.

Since December 2003, importation and use of all forms of asbestos with a very few specialised exceptions, was prohibited in Australia.

Types Of Dust Disease

Pleural disease

Inflammation and irritation of the outer lining of the lung is known as the pleura. The pleura stiffens and thickens widely and this thickening of pleura causes respiratory disorder. Pleural disease takes approximately 7 years to develop following exposure to asbestos fibers and is only evident on chest X-rays.


This is also known as scarring of the lungs. The airways become so inflamed and scarred that oxygen is no longer able to pass from the lungs into the blood. Symptoms include tightness in the chest, dry cough, and in later stages, a bluish tinge to the skin caused by lack of oxygen. Usually it takes around 10 years or more to develop following heavy and prolonged exposure to asbestos. Although it is a chronic disease but at times it can lead to death from other causes such as respiratory or cardiac failure.

Lung cancer

People exposed to asbestos fibers have a great risk of developing lung cancer. It can take 20 years or more before the cancer develops and asbestos is only one of many agents linked to its development.


It is a rare form of cancer. It usually takes between 20 to 40 years or more to develop. Symptoms of this disease usually become evident when the disease has progressed to an advance stage and the treatment is ineffective. The average survival time period of a human being after diagnosis is only between 6 to 18 months. Less exposure to asbestos can also cause this cancer, however only a small percentage of people exposed to asbestos develop mesothelioma.

If you have been exposed to asbestos and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, pleural plaques or another asbestos-related disease, you may be able to claim compensation.

To make a claim, you are required to prove in a Court of law that your condition is due to exposure to asbestos. This normally involves obtaining a report from the treating physician. The claimant’s lawyer also needs to get an expert report from an independent expert of asbestos-related disease.

Landmark Judgment In Dust Disease Related Claims

Bernie Banton (Bernie) worked in the Australian building products giant James Hardie’s (James) Camellia facility between 1968 and 1974. Bernie was involved in the production of various asbestos products. In 1999, Bernie was diagnosed with asbestosis. He was again diagnosed with mesothelioma and pleural disease in 2007. Bernie sued James for negligence and received approximately $800,000 as compensation. The inquiry is considered to be a landmark since it was the first time in the Australian history that a State Government became directly involved in the battle for compensation for workers.

Applicable Legislation

Safe Work Australia is an agency which is established under the Safe Work Australia Act 2008 to coordinate and develop national policy and strategies, assist with the implementation of model work health and safety legislation and reform the legislative framework, undertake research and collect, analyse and report data.

Safe Work Australia is a national policy body but does not regulate work health and safety laws. The states and territories retain responsibility for regulating and enforcing work health and safety laws within their own jurisdiction.

Following are the various applicable Commonwealth legislation:

  • Asbestos-related claims (Management of Commonwealth Liabilities) Act 2005;
  • Asbestos-related claims (Management of Commonwealth Liabilities) (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) bill 2005;
  • Asbestos-related claims (Management of Commonwealth Liabilities) (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2005;
  • Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988; and
  • Safe Work Australia Act 2008.

Owen Hodge Lawyers are accredited personal injury lawyers with significant practice in the conduct of compensation claims. No Win, No Fee scheme is also available for victims who have been exposed to asbestos fibers.

We offer free consultations with our team to better understand your case and assist you with appropriate legal needs.

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