Last updated on August 2nd, 2019
If you have been diagnosed with silicosis due to being exposed to silica dust in the workplace, you could be eligible to claim silicosis compensation.
What Is Silicosis?
Silicosis is a type of occupational lung disease caused by inhaling crystalline silica dust. It is most commonly seen in workers who work in industries that use silica and who inhale low levels of silica dust over an extended period of time. The incidence of silicosis saw a marked increase after the advent of industrialisation and the extensive use of pneumatic hammer drills and techniques such as sandblasting.
Quartz, rocks, sand, and glass are some of the common substances that contain silica, which is why people who work in glass manufacturing, quarrying, foundry work, manufacturing of abrasives, sandblasting, construction, tiling, and stone cutting are at highest risk for developing this condition.
What Causes Silicosis Compensation Claims?
If you believe you have silicosis because your employer has been negligent in their duty to control exposure to silica dust (explained in this Health and Safety Executive guide) then you would be entitled to make a silicosis compensation claim.
Silica dust is made up of very fine particles which you are meant to be protected from inhaling at work. However, when it is inhaled, the fine particles travel into the lungs where they settle in the alveoli and obstruct the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. This activates the white blood cells, which attack the dust particles in an attempt to eliminate them. The persistent attacks result in inflammation and scarring around the dust particles. Extensive scarring reduces the efficiency of the lungs, causing breathing problems.
There are 3 types of silicosis:
- Chronic silicosis, the most common form of this condition, is caused due to exposure to small amounts of silica dust generally over a time span of 20 years or more.
- Accelerated silicosis is seen in workers who are exposed to larger amounts of silica over a relatively shorter duration (between 5 to 15 years or so). Silicosis symptoms present themselves much earlier and are usually a lot worse than the symptoms of chronic silicosis.
- Acute silicosis is caused by intense exposure to very large amounts of silica over a very short period of time. It causes severe shortness of breath, impacts the ability of the lungs to absorb oxygen. The lungs can get filled with fluid and get inflamed.
If you’re suffering with any one of these types of silicosis because of your working environment you should contact a personal injury solicitor as it ‘s highly likely you have a strong silicosis compensation claim.
Symptoms Of Silicosis
Silicosis progresses very slowly and symptoms sometimes take several years to develop. This is one of the reasons that the earlier milder symptoms are often overlooked. In most cases, by the time the diagnosis is confirmed, the symptoms are already advanced, and the damage done to the lungs is unfortunately currently irreversible.
All of the symptoms mentioned below start off very mild but they get progressively worse as the silicosis develops.
- Respiratory problems;
- Breathlessness, which gets worse after any physical exertion;
- Persistent coughing;
- Laboured, rapid breathing that can sometimes sound like wheezing;
- Lack of appetite and weight loss;
- Chest pain;
- Darkening of the skin over a period of time.
Silicosis sufferers are also at high risk of developing complications such as tuberculosis, chronic bronchitis, scleroderma, airflow limitation, and lung cancer.
Protecting Yourself Against Silicosis In The Workplace
Silica dust is clearly a hazardous substance and its use in the workplace is governed by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH). According to the COSHH, in any industry where hazardous substances are used, it is the employers’ responsibility to ensure that all workers are protected from exposure to the toxic substance.
Some measures that employers are expected to put in place may include but are not limited to:
- Educating workers about the safe handling of silica dust;
- Providing workers with the appropriate safety personal equipment such as respirator;
- Putting up warning notices where they can be clearly seen;
- Putting recommended control measures in place to keep exposure to a minimum;
- Carrying out regular inspection and maintenance of all equipment involved.
If your employer neglected their responsibilities and you developed silicosis as a result, your employer could be liable to pay you compensation.
How To File A Successful Silicosis Compensation Claim
When you file a silicosis compensation claim, you can expect your employer’s insurers to either deny your claim outright or offer you minimum compensation on condition that you drop the claim. Instead of going this route, it is advisable to have a personal injury solicitor to file your silicosis claim. When you have a personal injury solicitor working for you, the last thing you should need to worry about is how you are going to pay their legal fees. Fortunately today many personal injury solicitors will take on your silicosis compensation claim on the basis of a No Win No Fee agreement.
A No Win No Fee agreement essentially states that you do not have to pay the solicitor any money until after the claim has been settled. If you lose the case, you are not liable to pay any legal fees. You only pay if you win. The amount you will be charged for a successful claim is something you and your solicitor have to decide on prior to signing the No Win No Fee agreement. It should go without saying that you shouldn’t sign any agreement that your not totally clear on. Whoever you choose to proceed with your claim, whether it’s on a No Win No Fee basis or otherwise, make sure you understand clearly what you will be charged.
Once you have signed the agreement, your solicitor will check for other silicosis claim precedents and will accordingly put together a strong case claiming for the maximum amount of compensation that is due to you.
How Much Compensation For Silicosis Claims?
As with other compensation claims for lung diseases, there isn’t one fixed amount that is awarded to those who have developed silicosis in the workplace. The amount that you can expect the court to award to you will depend on several different factors. When putting together your silicosis claim, your personal injury solicitor will ask that you are compensated for factors such as your pain and suffering, actual medical expenses, projected medical expenses, loss of income and work-related perks if you were unable to carry on working, loss of amenities and cost of any structural changes that you had to make to your home or car.
Word of caution – no matter how tempting it may seem, never agree to an out-of-court settlement with your employer’s insurance company without seeking independent legal advice first. It will almost certainly be lower than the compensation that you could actually claim. Always speak to a solicitor before you make any decision. Many personal injury solicitors offer a non-conditional, first free consultation so you are sure to get the best legal advice on a silicosis compensation claim without having to worry about paying for it.