Silicosis is a type of lung disease suffered by workers who have been exposed to silica. In this article we explore compensation options that exist through superannuation.

Stonemasons, especially those working within the stone benchtop industry, are at high risk of heavy silica exposure. The exposure for a stonemason is generally through the cutting, grinding, sanding and polishing of stone benchtops.

In 2018, the Office of Industrial Relations (OIR) published an urgent warning regarding silica exposure. Since this time a significant number of workers have been diagnosed with silicosis.

The emergence of this silicosis epidemic has resulted in many workers being forced out of their stonemasonry careers. In some circumstances injured stonemasons are precluded from ever returning to any form of work within their education, training or experience.

Further to this some workers will be prevented from obtaining work in any environment that may exacerbate their silicosis symptoms, including working in dusty, dirty and/or environments of extreme heat, including cold store environments – such as would be found in refrigerated work environments.

After receiving such a devastating diagnosis, many stonemasons are finding that their only option for a return to some form of employment is significant retraining. This is where a worker may have an entitlement to bring a Total and Permanent Disablement (TPD) claim through superannuation.

TPD insurance through superannuation is insurance that is separate to the workers’ compensation and common law entitlements and is something that should be explored.

If you are successful in an application for TPD benefits you will ordinarily be entitled to receive a lump sum insurance benefit from your superannuation fund.

If you or someone you know has worked in the stone benchtop industry, were exposed to silica and are experiencing symptoms, a medical consultation should be sought straight away.

If you’ve been diagnosed with work-related silicosis, either through employer-funded screening or by your own doctor, you may be entitled to TPD benefits.