Silicosis, a progressive, irreversible, and incurable fibrotic lung disease, has become a major concern for workers in industries such as mining, construction, and manufacturing where silica dust is prevalent. Chronic exposure to this dust can lead to permanent lung damage, making the disease a debilitating and sometimes fatal condition. 

Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) claims are an option for those who are no longer able to work due to a severe injury or illness as a result of silicosis. 

Understanding the interplay between silicosis and Total and Permanent Disability is crucial not just for affected workers, but also for employers, legal practitioners, and policymakers. Let’s dive deeper. 

Understanding Silicosis 

Silicosis is the direct result of inhaled excessive amounts of silica dust. It is usually generated by cutting, grinding, mining, and quarrying any materials that contain silica. Silica dust particles bed into the lung tissue leading to inflammation and eventually scarring. 

Workers in various industries are at risk from construction and mining to quarrying and industrial settings. The most common sources of silica dust include sand, soil, and rocks like quartz and granite. Stone cutting, foundry work and sandblasting are also high-danger activities for silicosis. 

Australia currently has almost 600 confirmed cases of silicosis; it’s only set to grow in the years to come as the disease can take several years to develop. 

Occupational Hazards and Employer Responsibilities 

The rise in silicosis in Australia has led governing bodies and health authorities to take additional steps to protect the workforce. It can take years to develop and show signs, so it’s key to protect workers now from future illnesses while still addressing the likelihood of steep increases in the near future. 

Workplace safety standards are under scrutiny, and labour organisations have pushed for stricter standards for ventilation, protective equipment like coveralls and respirators, and health monitoring. The need to educate workers about the PPE they use and why they use it is necessary to instil the correct culture in the workplace around safety. 

If employers do not comply with safety standards and ensure worker safety, they could face legal consequences including silicosis compensation claims. 

The Human Toll of Silicosis 

There is a serious human toll of silicosis in Australia. It represents a Total and Permanent Disability because the respiratory decline is progressive and eventually, as the disease advances, breathing at all is difficult. The physical manifestation of silicosis includes coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain. There is a further risk of health complications that come with lung issues. 

Chronic diseases take an emotional toll, as well as a physical one, from high levels of anxiety about an uncertain future to depression as their physical health starts to deteriorate. 

This naturally takes a financial toll, with many silicosis sufferers unable to work and faced with rising medical bills. This can have a ripple effect when they have dependents. 

Total and Permanent Disability Insurance: An Overview 

If you are unable to work due to an injury or illness, you are eligible to apply for a Total and Permanent Disability claim through your insurance. TPD is also often attached to your super, but this is limited in scope, so paying for a separate policy is a good idea. Its purpose is to provide a lump sum to eligible policyholders to relieve the strain of a permanent disability or illness. 

Eligibility criteria varies between policies, which is why you need to take out a policy to provide you with adequate cover for silicosis. You will need documentation and medical notes to show you cannot perform your role’s essential tasks. Some policies cover any job and some that will cover yours only, which leaves the door open for you to work elsewhere. 

It’s wise to speak to a lawyer first to ensure you have everything you need to move forward.

Navigating the TPD Claims Process for Silicosis 

The claims process can feel overwhelming, especially when you’re also dealing with a silicosis diagnosis. After diagnosis, collate all of the necessary records relevant to your claim. A lawyer can ensure you meet your insurance policy’s eligibility criteria. Then, you can notify the insurance company of the diagnosis and your notice to file a claim. 

The more documentation you have, the stronger your claim and the quicker the process. Your lawyer can help you complete the claims form before submission. The insurance company will assess your claim and render a decision. 

Legal Considerations and Precedents 

The TPD process is complex, so enlisting a lawyer for guidance is important. Experienced lawyers can assess the work conditions, and any potential negligence, and guide you on whether you can take legal action against anyone else for your exposure to silica dust. A lawyer can also help you accurately interpret the language in your insurance policy to ensure you receive adequate compensation and establish causation. They will reduce the likelihood of a denied claim but can also help you mount a convincing appeal should the need arise. 

A lawyer may also be able to point you to a class action suit to join if there are several of you impacted by workplace conditions that resulted in silicosis. 

Final Thoughts: Empowering Through Knowledge 

If you have silicosis, you have options for compensation. We can provide you with legal guidance and support in making an informed decision about how best to move forward. 

Everyone has specific needs and AJB Stevens can help you determine which option will help you meet those needs. We offer advice, guidance, and support through a difficult time. Get in touch with us today to schedule a consultation.