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Silicosis is a rare, long-term lung disease that is caused by breathing in large amounts of crystalline silica dust over long periods of time.
Silica or silicone dioxide is a substance that is naturally found in certain types of stone, rock, sand, and clay. Working in jobs with these materials can create a very fine dust that is easily inhaled into your lungs.
Once silica dust is inside your lungs, it can cause inflammation and eventually lead to your lung tissue becoming hardened and scarred (this is called fibrosis). If your lungs become affected in this way, they stop working properly and it can cause breathing difficulties.
Who can get silicosis?
Silicosis is an industrial disease (occupational condition) that sometimes affects people who have worked in the past as miners, construction workers, potters, demolition operatives and glass manufacturers.
People who work or have worked in the following industries are particularly at risk from silicosis:
- Stone masonry and stone cutting
- Construction and demolition
- Worktop manufacturing and fitting
- Pottery and ceramics
- Glass manufacturing
What are the symptoms of silicosis?
According to the NHS, the symptoms of silicosis usually take many years to develop. In fact, you may not notice any symptoms until you have stopped working with silica dust.
Silicosis usually develops after being exposed to silica for 10-20 years, although it can sometimes develop after 5-10 years of exposure. Occasionally, it can occur after only a few months of very heavy exposure.
The main symptoms of silicosis are:
- Persistent cough
- Shortness of breath (breathlessness)
- Weakness and tiredness
If your silicosis continues to get worse, the above symptoms may become more severe affecting your daily life. Some people with silicosis can struggle with simple activities like walking or going up stairs.
Is silicosis a fatal condition?
There is no cure for silicosis and unfortunately, it can be fatal if the lungs stop working properly (respiratory failure) or serious complications develop.
Serious life-threating conditions that silicosis can cause include:
- Tuberculosis (TB) and other chest infections
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Heart failure
- Kidney disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Lung cancer
How is silicosis diagnosed?
If you are having symptoms, you should make an appointment with your GP.
The doctor will ask you about your symptoms and work history and listen to your lungs with a stethoscope. They may ask about any periods when you may have been exposed to silica and whether you were issued with any safety equipment, such as a face mask, when you were working.
If a serious condition like silicosis is suspected, you may be referred to a specialist for further tests to confirm the diagnosis. Tests might include a chest X-ray, a CT scan and lung function testing (spirometry).
Can I make a silicosis compensation claim?
If you have been diagnosed with silicosis, you should think about whether your disease has been caused by the work you do, or any previous employment you’ve had where you have been exposed to silica dust.
You may be able to make a silicosis compensation claim if your condition was caused by your employer or a former working environment. You can still make a claim even if you were exposed to silica decades ago. It does not matter if the company you worked for has gone out of business, you may still be able to sue for damages.
A legal claim (civil claim for compensation) against your employer or former employer can help cover the cost of your treatment and provide some form of compensation for your pain and suffering.
Is there a time limit for making a silicosis compensation claim?
It is essential you don’t leave it too late to make a silicosis compensation claim. You have 3 years from the date you were aware that your silicosis might be linked to your work to make a claim.
If a family member has died of silicosis, you have 3 years from the date they died, or the date you received the post-mortem results.
If you have any questions about the time limit for claiming silicosis compensation, call our friendly, expert lawyers today on 0800 884 0777 for FREE advice and to chat through your next steps.
Does Novum Law offer ‘No Win No Fee’ silicosis compensation?
Yes, if you have been diagnosed with silicosis, Novum Law has a team of specialist industrial disease solicitors who focus on getting compensation for workers on a No Win No Fee basis.
Your employer has a duty of care to protect you from health and safety risks – this includes exposure to silica dust.
You shouldn’t have to suffer because your boss failed to comply with health and safety regulations by taking appropriate steps to ensure you were properly protected from silica dust (e.g., training about the risks, providing protective equipment like face masks).
Our lawyers have years of experience securing compensation for workers from a range of different industries who have been diagnosed with silicosis. All silicosis compensation cases handled by our specialist industrial disease experts are No Win No Fee claims.