Occupational Cancer and Industrial Disease
Benign Pleural Plaques
• Underground mining, tunnelling and excavation work;
• Extraction and cutting of quartzite, gneiss, granite and slate;
• Glass manufacturing plants;
• Brick making;
• Manufacture of pottery, porcelain, refractory materials and siliceous abrasives;
• Road building;
• Demolition work where potential sites of silica exist e.g. breaking up concrete;
• Explosive blasting work.
If excessive amounts of silica dust are breathed into the lungs over a period of time, it can cause damage to the lung tissue. The disease can remain symptom-free for 10 to 20 years after exposure. The most common form of silicosis develops after long exposure to relatively low concentrations. Once the disease has begun, it will continue to progress even if you are removed from further exposure.
The Black Lung, also known as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis is caused by exposure to, or breathing in of, coal dust or graphite. The length of time of exposure is an important factor when looking at a person’s risk of developing the disease. The disease can develop over a lengthy period (even if exposure to the coal dust has stopped), sometimes upwards of 15 years.
Firefighters and Occupational Cancer
The effects on firefighters (career and volunteer) who have been exposed to carcinogens (all combustion products, aka smoke), PFOS, PFAS toxins and chemicals at fire scenes and fire extinguisher activities including training have been the subject of scientific research conducted worldwide. The research has found a clear link between firefighting as an occupation, and the increased risk of developing a lot of different cancers.
Firefighter cancer includes: brain, prostate, testicular, breast, kidney, bladder, leukaemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, ureter, colorectal and oesophageal cancers. This list is getting larger as more research and data is collected, so arguably any cancer might have an association to firefighting activities.
If a firefighter with a certain number of years’ service develops one of these types of cancer, then that cancer is considered to have been caused by occupational firefighting exposure to carcinogens at fire scenes, including during the dampening down with off-gassing, and during live fire training.
A number of Australian States and Territories have already introduced legislation that creates a legal presumption that if a firefighter (career or volunteer) is diagnosed with a particular type of cancer, then there is a legal presumption that the cancer resulted from their employment or engagement as a firefighter under the firefighter presumptive cancer legislation.
Workers’ compensation claims for fire service occupational cancer are accepted even if presumptive legislation does not apply or exist in a particular State or Territory. Specialised legal representation is necessary if presumption does not apply.
If you are diagnosed with any industrial disease, you should seek specialised legal assistance with your industrial disease claim, as these claims are complex due to the nature of the disease combined with technical legal arguments about burden of proof and scientific certainty.
Our Accreditated Specialist, Leeha James, is one of Australia’s leading experts in Firefighting, Cancer and Compensations with over 20 years experience in this area.