Compensation is Available for Silicosis

21st February 2023
Category Compensation

Silicosis is a debilitating lung disease caused by exposure to silica dust. RMB Compensation Lawyer ANNE BARLOW explains the process of claiming compensation:

Crystalline silica (silica) dust is a naturally occurring mineral found in most rocks, sand, clay and stone. It is used in large scale in Australia in construction, mining, excavation, concrete cutting, fabrication and many other industries.

Certain activities place workers at an increased risk of exposure to silica. These include grinding, cutting, polishing, sanding and drilling materials containing silica, excavation and earth moving, stone and clay processing operations, paving and surfacing and construction labouring activities.

A recent 60 Minutes story detailed the dangers which working with engineered stone (such a Caesarstone) posed. Engineered stone has been popular for use as kitchen and other benchtops throughout Australia since the mid-1990’s.

Manufacturers of these engineered stone products were aware of the danger it posed to workers breathing in the dust and issued minimal warnings. They are liable for diseases these products cause.

When inhaled, silica dust is small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs, causing irreversible lung damage.  The inhaled particles become trapped in the lung, causing irritation.

In response, the body’s immune system tries unsuccessfully to clear the dust particles, which can trigger inflammation and scar tissue formation. As more silica dust is inhaled, more scar tissue forms, making it harder to breathe and resulting in dust diseases such as silicosis and auto-immune conditions.

Silicosis is an incurable, irreversible and progressive disease affecting the lungs. There aren’t any warning signs in the early stages of silicosis, but as the disease progresses symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing, fatigue and weight loss develop.  Silicosis is usually a terminal disease.

Many people who have worked with these products are now developing devastating silicosis at young ages. It is destroying the lives of many young Australians.

If you have contracted a silica-related disease, you may be entitled to lodge a claim for workers compensation benefits and a lump sum of damages. You can make these claims even if:

  • You are no longer working at the site where the silica exposure occurred;
  • You were exposed to silica many years ago;
  • Your employer as since gone out of business;
  • You were exposed at multiple work places;
  • You were self-employed or a contractor;
  • You smoke cigarettes.

Dust Diseases Tribunal claims for a lump sum of damages

You may have a claim for a tax-free lump sum of damages for pain and suffering, loss of earnings and superannuation, the cost of help you need around the home and your medical expenses. These claims are brought in the Dust Diseases Tribunal (DDT). The DDT is a specialist Court which was established to deal with claims arising from diseases caused by the inhaling of various types of dusts including silica.

Damages as a result of a claim in the DDT are paid as a tax-free lump sum.  Despite receiving this lump sum, your rights to workers compensation benefits will also continue.

RMB Lawyers has an expert team of dust disease lawyers who act for workers in compensation claims for any work-related injury including illnesses caused by exposure to silica dust. Your first step should be to contact our office to arrange a free consultation. You can contact us by by phone or our 'Ask a Question' tool on our website.