The increasing use of artificial stone products containing higher concentrations of crystalline silica over marble and granite for benchtops has contributed to a rise of workers developing silicosis.
Silicosis is a permanent and progressive lung disease caused by the inhalation of crystalline silica.
If you think you might be at risk, or have been exposed to silica during the course of your employment, our expert team will sit down with you and advise you of your rights and the best possible legal path for you to take.
What is silica?
Silica, also known as ‘silicon dioxide’, is a natural mineral that is present in most rocks, gravel, sand and clay. Crystalline silica, also known as ‘free silica’ is most commonly found in quartz and can also be found in cristobalite and tridymite. Granite contains 25 per cent to 40 per cent quartz and sandstone contains on average 67 per cent quartz. Artificial stone engineered for kitchen and bathroom benchtops can contain between 70 per cent to 90 per cent crystalline silica. Exposure to breathable crystalline silica can occur through activities including:
- The excavation, moving and drilling of earth;
- Paving and surfacing;
- Construction activities;
- The blasting, cutting, grinding, chipping, sanding, drilling, polishing, assembly and installation of natural and manufactured stone products such as benchtops and tombstones; and
- The manufacture of asphalt, cement, bricks, china, ceramics, glass and even adhesives, paints, soaps and abrasives.
What is silicosis?
Silicosis, a form of pneumoconiosis, is a permanent and progressive occupational lung disease caused by the inhalation of crystalline silica.
The silica becomes trapped in the lungs and accumulates with exposure. Lung tissue reacts to the silica by forming fibrotic nodules, scarring and inflammation. Silicosis has been linked to an increased risk of developing other conditions such as lung cancer, kidney disease, autoimmune disease, tuberculosis and bronchitis.
Cigarette smoking can progress and/or worsen symptoms.
What is the difference between acute, accelerated and chronic silicosis?
Silicosis is classified into three types:
- Acute: Acute silicosis can occur after a few months or a few years depending on the level and duration of exposure to high concentrations of crystalline silica. Acute silicosis tends to occur where a worker was exposed to crystalline silica in a confined space and was not wearing respiratory protection.
- Accelerated: Accelerated silicosis occurs after approximately five to 10 years of high exposure to dust containing crystalline silica.
- Chronic: chronic silicosis is the most common form of silicosis and occurs after approximately 10-30 years of moderate to low exposure to dust containing crystalline silica. Symptoms may not be obvious until the later stages of the disease and may include fatigue, shortness of breath or respiratory failure.
Is there a cure for silicosis?
Silicosis is preventable through the establishment of workplace measures that reduce dust and thereby limit exposure, however once silicosis is established there is no cure; instead treatments are focused on managing the symptoms.
Who is at risk of exposure?
People who work in mining, quarrying, construction, ceramics, engineering and stonemasonry are among those who have the highest risk of exposure to crystalline silica.
I think I have been exposed to crystalline silica. What should I do?
If you or someone you know currently or previously worked in an occupation where they may have been exposed to crystalline silica it is recommended that they consult a general practitioner or specialist to determine they have any conditions or diseases due to the potential exposure.
Given that the period between exposure and the onset of symptoms can be lengthy by decades, early preventative measures and detection is recommended.
I have been diagnosed with silicosis. Can Zaparas Lawyers help?
If you do have silicosis and there is a likely connection between your condition and the nature of your employment is it recommended that you consult a Personal Injury Lawyer as soon as possible.
Zaparas Lawyers have a dedicated team that can assist in explaining your prospects in making a WorkCover claim, explain any WorkCover entitlements you may have and assist you in navigating the WorkCover system.
What do I need to bring to my appointment?
It is most beneficial that you bring all relevant documentation you have, such as completed claim forms, letters from the Insurer and your employer, medical reports, radiological investigations and any other documents that may be relevant.
English is my second language. Are you able to provide an interpreter?
Our firm has a diverse and multicultural team comprising of lawyers and law clerks who speak different languages including: Greek, Cantonese, Mandarin, Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Macedonian, Turkish and Singhalese.
We also have a network of the very best interpreters who can attend interviews and appointments free of charge to our clients.
How much will I pay in legal costs?
When an injury is sustained, it is not only a traumatic and often life changing experience, it often causes great financial strain to the injured party and their family.
This is why for 36 years Zaparas Lawyers has fought cases on a ‘No win, No charge’ basis.
In simple terms, this means that you do not pay anything unless you win your case.
Could I be eligible for any other entitlements?
You may also be entitled to other claims such as:
- Total and Permanent Disablement or Permanent Incapacity claims within your Superannuation Scheme;
- Income Protection Claim; and
These schemes are dependant on your unique policy and they all hold various and specific requirements that need to be satisfied.
At Zaparas Lawyers, we have a dedicated Superannuation department who will be able to assist in exploring all your potential rights and entitlements.