Tradies At Risk of Developing Disease

Published on 26 August 2021
The month of August marks the Tradies National Health Month, which is an initiative to highlight and raise awareness around the health, wellbeing and injury risks that affect tradies.

Are Tradies at risk of developing or contracting an occupational disease? 

Due to the nature of their work, Tradies are particularly prone to suffering from musculoskeletal injuries and account for approximately 60% of all injury and musculoskeletal disorders across all occupations.  It is equally as important to highlight, however, that given the environments that Tradies work in and the nature of their duties, Tradies can be exposed to potentially harmful substances and are therefore susceptible to also developing an occupational disease.

What is an occupational disease?

If a worker contracts or develops a disease as a result of exposure to risk factors arising from the nature of their employment, that disease may be classified as an ‘occupational disease Common risk factors include chemicals, toxins, dust (e.g. containing silica or asbestos), gas, fumes and radiation/sunlight.

What are some common health risks face by Tradies due to the nature of their work?

The most common health risks faced by Tradies include musculoskeletal disorders and diseases (e.g. Raynaud’s disease and bursitis), hearing loss, cancer including melanoma, and occupational dust diseases including mesothelioma, silicosis and occupational asthma.

Have you or someone you know been exposed to a hazardous substance?

If you or someone you know may have been exposed to a hazardous or carcinogenic substance, it is recommended that that person see their general practitioner or specialist to determine if they have any conditions or diseases which may be due to the nature of their past or current employment. It is important that an occupational history is provided and if you don’t feel that your symptoms have been properly investigated, that you seek a second opinion and/or request diagnostic testing. Given that the period between exposure and the onset of symptoms can be decades-long for some diseases and illnesses, early preventative measures and detection is recommended where possible.

The person who may have an occupational disease should also seek legal advice as to their prospects for pursuing WorkCover compensation and/or entitlements through their superannuation and/or personal insurance policies.

When may a past or current worker with a disease that may be associated with their employment be eligible to pursue WorkCover?

A past or current worker diagnosed with an occupational disease may be entitled to WorkCover compensation where the nature of their employment (whether current or a past employment) significantly increased the risk of the worker contracting the disease than had the worker not been employed in employment of that nature. This is irrespective of whether their employment actually caused their disease, unless WorkSafe proves that the disease was not due to the nature of their employment

I may have an occupational disease, but I have ceased working and I had worked for a number of employers over my employment history  – am I still eligible to pursue WorkCover?

The occupational disease may be attributable to the exposure of harmful risk factors over the course of employment with one or a number of employers and the symptoms of an occupational disease can appear many years, even decades, after the initial exposure, depending on the level and length of the exposure.

Current or past workers may still be able to lodge a WorkCover Claim in Victoria even if the following circumstances apply:

•    They are asymptomatic;
•    They have left the job/s where the exposure may have occurred;
•    They have since changed occupation to that where exposure may have occurred;
•    They worked with a number of employers where exposure may have occurred;
•    They were a contractor and are deemed a worker under Legislation;
•    The employer has ceased trading;
•    They have retired;
•    They were a smoker or otherwise exposed to cigarette smoke; or
•    They have moved interstate (subject to where exposure occurred).

What WorkCover entitlements may the past or current worker be eligible for?

A past or current worker diagnosed with an occupational disease may be entitled to claim WorkCover compensation for:

•    Medical and like expenses;
•    Loss of income if they are incapacitated for pre-injury and/or suitable employment; and
•    In some circumstances, damages (compensation) for pain and suffering and loss of earnings.

What other entitlements may someone who has been diagnosed with an occupational disease be entitled to?

You may be entitled to other benefits regardless of whether or not you qualify for WorkCover compensation.  These entitlements may include:

•    Total and permanent disablement benefit under your Superannuation Scheme;
•    Income protection;
•    Critical illness Insurance or Trauma; and
•    Incolink benefits (subject to being a member of an Incolink policy).

Whether you qualify for any of the above benefits will depend upon the policy or policies you may hold and the specific requirements that need to be satisfied.

We recommend that you speak to one of our dedicated Superannuation solicitors at Zaparas Lawyers who can advise and assist you with making a claim.

How can we assist you?

To read more on Tradies National Health Month, click here.