Attention Tradies: You May Be At Risk for Crystalline Silica Exposure
Silicosis is a serious lung disease that arises as a result of exposure to crystalline silica particles. Although there are many ways one can be exposed to crystalline silica dust, the people most at risk are tradies working in a host of different industries, including stonemasonry, construction, mining, earthwork and more. A silicosis lawyer can help you lodge a claim for compensation if you developed a dust disease in the course of your work.
You may have multiple legal options if you have developed silicosis:
- Workers’ Compensation
- Superannuation / Total and Permanent Disability Insurance (TPD)
- Public Liability Claims
- Defective Product Claims
Henry Carus + Associates are well-versed in multiple compensation schemes, and our silicosis lawyers will fight to maximise your compensation. Call 03 9001 1318 today for a FREE, no-obligation consultation. We handle silicosis claims on a No Win – No Fee basis, meaning you don’t pay legal fees until we successfully resolve your claim.
What Is Silicosis?
Silicosis is a lung ailment caused by inhalation of crystalline silica. Crystalline silica is a mineral found in most types of rock and stone. Silica dust is released when materials containing silica are subject to activities such as cutting, drilling, grinding, etc. When inhaled, ultra-fine silica dust particles permanently damage and scar the lungs.
Acute silicosis can develop within just a few weeks of exposure to silica dust. The condition is categorised as accelerated after 3–10 years of moderate to heavy exposure, resulting in scarring and nodules in the lungs. Finally, chronic silicosis occurs after lengthy, prolonged exposure to crystalline silica.
There is no cure for silicosis. Exposure to crystalline silica can also lead to serious lung diseases such as emphysema, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Kidney disease has also been linked to silica dust.
What Are the Symptoms of Silicosis?
Inhaling silica dust is extremely dangerous. Unfortunately, silicosis and other dust diseases are a daily risk in many workplaces.
You should see your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Cough that won’t go away
- Shortness of breath, particularly after physical exertion
- Pain or tightness in the chest
- Excess phlegm or sputum when coughing
- Unexplained weight loss
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with silicosis, it is in your best interest to seek qualified legal counsel promptly. A silicosis lawyer at Henry Carus + Associates can identify your options for compensation and make a claim on your behalf.
Silicosis a Major Threat to Workers
For years, silicosis has been recognised as an occupational disease common among construction workers and miners. Now, however, we are seeing a massive surge in silicosis cases amongst stonemasons and other tradies who work with engineered stone for kitchen and bathroom benchtops.
Many of the materials used in benchtops (including granite, slate, marble and quartz) release silica dust when they are subject to cutting, grinding and other engineering activities. Unions in Australia have begun calling for regulation of engineered stone in an effort to reduce the number of tradies who develop silicosis.
If you work in any of the following jobs or trades, you may be at risk for silica dust exposure:
- Brick, concrete and stone cutting
- Sand blasting
- Earthmoving and excavation
- Construction (including the use of equipment such as drills, jackhammers, angle grinders, sanders, etc.)
- Glass and ceramics manufacturing
- Mining and quarrying
Although occupational exposure is the biggest risk factor for silicosis, silica dust also poses a threat to those in the vicinity. If you lived or worked in close proximity to activities that produced silica dust and you were later diagnosed with silicosis, a silicosis lawyer at Henry Carus + Associates can advise you whether you have a claim.
What to Do If You Are Exposed to Silica Dust
Recognising your risk factors is one of the most important steps. If you work in one of the occupations above and you are regularly exposed to dust in the workplace, your risk of silicosis is high. Less likely but still possible is the potential for exposure outside the workplace (i.e., you live near a business that produces silica dust or you are involved in administrative or office work for a company that extracts, mines, fabricates or engineers stone).
The next step is making an appointment with a doctor. After reviewing your symptoms, the doctor may order a chest X-ray, lung biopsy and other tests to determine if you have silicosis.
If you have been diagnosed with silicosis, it is crucial to follow the recommendations of your doctor and any other medical professionals. Silicosis has no cure, unfortunately, but the condition may be manageable with medications, supplemental oxygen and lifestyle changes (such as quitting smoking).
Additional steps you should take depend on the specifics of your situation. For example, if you developed silicosis after being exposed to silica dust at work, you should report the illness to your employer no more than 30 days after receiving the diagnosis. You should also speak to a lawyer about your legal rights and options as soon as possible.
Read More: How Do I File a WorkCover Claim?
Can You Get Compensation for Silicosis?
The legal recourse available to workers and other individuals who have been exposed to crystalline silica varies. Our silicosis lawyers can review the unique details of your situation and advise you what type of claim you may have.
Workers in Victoria who have been exposed to crystalline silica through their occupation can lodge a claim for WorkCover benefits if they develop silicosis or another type of dust disease. Benefits paid by WorkCover for job-related injuries and illnesses include:
- Weekly payments for missed work
- The cost of medical treatment
- Mental health support
- Provisional payments for mental injuries (available for a maximum of 13 weeks)
- WorkSafe Victoria is offering free counselling services for stonemasons who are undergoing health assessments for silicosis
- Permanent impairment benefit
- To qualify, you will need to undergo a specialised medical assessment to determine whether your illness meets the criteria for permanent physical and psychological impairment established by the workers’ compensation legislation in Victoria
- Superannuation contributions; workers who have received weekly payments for 52 weeks qualify for additional payments to a super fund of their choice
- Compensation for a work-related death; dependent family members may be entitled to weekly pensions, as well as payments covering medical expenses, counselling, funeral and burial expenses, etc.
Workers who suffer an occupational illness due to the negligence of their employer may also have a claim for common law damages. A silicosis lawyer can help you lodge a serious injury application and take additional steps to claim common law damages such as:
- Lost earnings and earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment and amenities of life
- Reduced life expectancy
Employers in VIC are required to follow safe practices for minimising exposure to crystalline silica. If your employer has failed to maintain a safe workplace and you were diagnosed with silicosis due to silica dust exposure, you may be entitled to additional compensation.
Superannuation & TPD
People with silicosis are often completely unable to work. This results in financial hardship that can make it impossible to pay for medical care and daily living expenses. If you are facing this situation, you may have a claim for lump sum compensation via Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) insurance.
Most Australians have TPD coverage through their employer. To lodge a claim, you will need to prove that the illness has resulted in ‘Total and Permanent Disability’. One of the challenges of a TPD claim is establishing that your condition meets the criteria for Total and Permanent Disability used by the insurer. Unfortunately, this results in a discouragingly high rate of claims rejections.
Henry Carus + Associates have in-depth knowledge of TPD compensation claims. In fact, we have established a new firm serving all of Australia dedicated solely to helping people who are totally and permanently disabled get the full entitlement from TPD coverage. We encourage anyone who is unable to work due to silicosis or another disease to explore their right to a lump sum TPD insurance benefit.
In addition to common law claims from workers, businesses that fail to implement safe practices for reducing silica dust may also be exposed to liability for personal injury if a third party contracts silicosis due to their negligence. If you were regularly exposed to crystalline silica (e.g., because you lived in the vicinity of a construction site, quarry, workshop or other premises where high concentrations of dust were present) and suffered lung damage, you may have a public liability claim.
Liability for silicosis arising from products containing unsafe levels of crystalline silica may rest with the manufacturer of the product. The success of a defective product claim requires thorough inspection of the product by lawyers and experts who are well-versed in applicable safety standards.
Contact a Silicosis Lawyer Today
At Henry Carus + Associates, we have an unparalleled understanding of the compensation schemes in VIC. We are also experts in TPD insurance claims, enabling us to explore all avenues for clients who have been made sick by silica dust.
Silicosis is a serious illness. If you got sick at work or through no fault of your own, our silicosis lawyers are committed to maximising your compensation. You Deserve More, and our firm has the experience, knowledge and resources to take on complex legal challenges and obtain a favourable outcome for you and your family.
Get a free, no-obligation consultation with a silicosis lawyer at Henry Carus + Associates by calling 03 9001 1318 today. We serve clients in Melbourne and throughout Victoria.