You may be entitled to WorkCover for silicosis if it can be established that (a) you were exposed to crystalline silica dust in the course of your job, and (b) you developed this serious lung ailment as a result. However, obtaining the benefits and other compensation you deserve is not always straightforward.
Silicosis is a debilitating and sometimes fatal respiratory disease that occurs when silica dust is inhaled into the lungs. If you have been diagnosed with silicosis as a result of your work, you may be entitled to compensation through WorkCover.
Henry Carus + Associates has the expertise to help you lodge a WorkCover for silicosis claim. Call 03 9001 1318 today for a free, no-obligation consultation.
Multiple Workers Are At Risk for Silicosis
Silica dust is an occupational hazard in many different industries. Workers who are exposed to silica dust in their workplace (and therefore at risk of developing silicosis) include:
- Construction workers who work with materials such as concrete, brick, and stone.
- Miners who work in underground or open-pit mines where silica-containing minerals are present.
- Quarry workers who work with stone, sand, and gravel.
- Stone cutters and fabricators who work with granite, marble, and other stones that contain silica.
- Nearly 30% of stonemasons who agreed to participate in a study by Monash University were found to have silicosis.
- Glass manufacturing workers who work with silica-based materials.
- Foundry workers who work with silica-based materials in the casting process.
- Ceramics workers who work with silica-containing materials.
- Sandblasters who use sand or other abrasive materials to clean surfaces.
- Demolition workers who work with materials that contain silica, such as concrete.
- Cement workers who work with cement and cement-based products that contain silica.
It is important for workers in these industries to take precautions to minimise their exposure to silica dust. Employers should also provide adequate training, personal protective equipment, and engineering controls to protect their workers from silica dust exposure.
Workers who are exposed to silica dust should seek medical attention if they develop any symptoms of silicosis (such as a persistent cough, shortness of breath, pain in the chest, etc.). It is also important to speak to a legal expert about your right to WorkCover benefits and other compensation.
How Do I Lodge a Claim with WorkCover for Silicosis?
Following these steps can help you protect your legal rights and maximise compensation for work-related silicosis. If you need assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a specialist lawyer at Henry Carus + Associates.
1. Seek Medical Attention
If you have a cough you can’t shake, you have trouble catching your breath, and/or you routinely develop respiratory infections, you should see a doctor immediately. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and may order imaging tests, such as a chest X-ray or CT scan, to diagnose silicosis.
Safe Work Australia recommends that workers at risk of exposure to silica dust undergo annual crystalline silica health assessments. Early detection of silicosis can help prevent further damage to the lungs.
2. Report the Diagnosis to Your Employer
If you are diagnosed with silicosis and you are routinely exposed to crystalline silica dust on the job, you may have a WorkCover claim. WorkSafe Victoria requires workers to notify their employer of a work-related injury or illness within 30 days. If you fail to report the silicosis diagnosis to your employer within 30 days, you may lose the right to compensation.
3. Lodge a WorkCover Claim
You will need to fill out Sections 1–6 of Part A of the Worker’s Injury Claim Form and submit to your employer to complete. It is crucial to be as accurate and as detailed as possible when filling out this form.
Additional paperwork may be needed depending on the benefits you claim. For example, a Certificate of Capacity is required if you claim weekly payments for time away from work.
WorkCover will assess your claim and determine whether you are eligible for compensation. You should continue to receive medical care while your claim is pending. Although silicosis has no cure, treatment may help manage the symptoms. You may also be eligible for mental health support.
4. Attend a Medical Examination
WorkCover may require you to attend an Independent Medical Examination (IME) with a doctor of their choice (likely a doctor specialising in the lungs (i.e., a pulmonologist). The doctor will assess your condition and provide a report to WorkCover.
An IME report can have a significant impact on your WorkCover entitlements. It is important to request a copy of the report and consult a lawyer to understand how your benefits may be affected.
5. Receive Compensation
If your WorkCover claim is approved, you may be entitled to the following benefits:
- Payment of medical expenses related to silicosis
- Weekly payments to partially replace lost wages
- Up to 13 weeks of provisional payments for mental health care while your claim is being reviewed; provisional payments are made even if your claim is rejected
- A permanent impairment benefit; silicosis may be assessed as a permanent disability
- Payments to a super fund, if you receive weekly payments for more than 52 weeks
Silicosis can be fatal. If your loved one has died as a result of silica lung disease acquired on the job, your WorkCover entitlements may include payment of medical expenses, lump sum and pension payments, funeral service, and more.
Can I Sue My Employer for Silicosis?
Finally, workers who develop silicosis as a result of their occupation may be able to make a claim for common law damages. To sue your employer, the following conditions need to be met:
- Exposure to silica dust in your workplace caused silicosis.
- The effects of silicosis are found to represent a ‘serious injury’ as defined by WorkSafe.
- The injury occurred due to negligence on the part of your employer or another party.
Read More: Can I Sue for a Work-Related Injury?
Proving negligence in a common law claim can be especially challenging. Lawyers at Henry Carus + Associates are well-versed in the workplace safety regulations intended to minimise workers’ exposure to silica dust and other harmful substances.
If we determine that your employer has violated a duty to protect you from crystalline silica as required by law, you may be entitled to compensation for loss of earnings, pain and suffering, and other common law damages. Our lawyers can also determine if you have a claim against the manufacturer or supplier of a crystalline silica substance if their negligence caused you harm.
Are You Entitled to WorkCover for Silicosis?
Silicosis is a growing concern for tradies. If you have been diagnosed with silicosis as a result of your work, you may be entitled to substantial benefits through WorkCover.
At Henry Carus + Associates, we believe You Deserve More. Our specialist lawyers are committed to exploring all avenues for compensation through WorkCover for silicosis. This may include applying for a permanent impairment benefit, lodging a common law damages claim, and more.