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Silica dust being released into the air from grinding or cutting certain materials, silica dust exposure causes silicosis and other related illnesses
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Silica dust being released into the air from grinding or cutting certain materials, silica dust exposure causes silicosis and other related illnesses

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Silicosis Claims

Silicosis is a progressive and potentially fatal lung disease caused by inhaling silica dust over a prolonged period of time which causes scarring in the lung tissue. This scarring can lead to various health conditions including tuberculosis and pulmonary hypertension and permanent respiratory problems such as shortness of breath.

Who is at risk of silicosis?

Since silicosis is caused by breathing in silica dust, those most at risk include workers in the following industries:

  • Construction
  • Demolition
  • Glass Manufacturing
  • Mining
  • Paving
  • Pottery and Ceramics
  • Sand Blasting
  • Stone Masonry and Cutting

What are the main symptoms of Silicosis?

The symptoms of silicosis usually develop over a prolonged period of time and you may not notice them until long after you've stopped working with materials that produce silica dust.

Usual symptoms to look out for include:

  • a persistent cough
  • persistent shortness of breath
  • weakness and tiredness

What are the different types of silicosis?

  • Simple silicosis is the most common type of silicosis; it develops after at least 5 to 10 years of exposure to silica dust. Individuals with simple silicosis usually show no symptoms. The condition is identified following chest x-rays.
  • Simple silicosis may develop into Progressive Massive Fibrosis (PMF), even after exposure to silica has stopped. PMF is a potentially fatal condition of the lungs. Individuals with PMF will suffer from breathlessness resulting in significant disability.  
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can develop as a result of exposure to silica dust. Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, coughing and production of sputum or phlegm.
  • Lung cancer has many different causes, including smoking and exposure to asbestos. What is less widely known is that lung cancer can also be caused by exposure to silica. This is known as Silica Related Lung Cancer

How is silicosis diagnosed and treated?

Silicosis isn’t always easy to diagnose and not everyone who develops silicosis will have the same symptoms. If you are suffering from silicosis-related symptoms and have worked in professions which are more likely to have been exposed to RCS then it is important to visit your GP and explain that you may have been exposed to silica dust.

Unfortunately, there's no cure for silicosis and the condition may worsen over time and lead to further lung damage. The existing treatments aim to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.

No win, no fee personal injury solicitors

The expression “No win, no fee” is often used in personal injury cases.  It is used as a way of funding a compensation claim where the accident victim does not have the means to pay for the costs involved as the case progresses. 

A number of solicitors are prepared to handle personal injury cases on a “No Win – No Fee” basis but very few are able to offer their clients complete protection if the case is unsuccessful. 

In that event, the client could end up being liable for many thousands of pounds in legal expenses or the case won't be fully investigated and therefore likely to under-settle.

Compensate 'no win, no fee' funding

Digby Brown has its own funding company, Compensate, which provides the funding to allow the case to be fully investigated, employ the best experts surrounding the circumstances of the accident and/or injuries sustained and where and if necessary go to court.

If for whatever reason the case is unsuccessful, Compensate pays all your legal expenses and those of your opponent – you pay nothing

On average our clients receive over 3 times the pre-litigation offer

Because of Compensate funding Digby Brown's success rate is extremely high and on average our clients receive three times the pre-litigation offer.

In the event the case is successful, a small percentage of your damages will be deducted with VAT to pay for this service. The percentage which Compensate will charge depends on the degree of risk involved. We believe that this is the fairest method of giving clients access to justice whilst ensuring their cases are fully investigated, prepared and funded.

Don’t take our word for it, just read many of the court decisions and case studies on our website.

Beware of compensation offers which may be too good

We know you will have seen many adverts offering 100% compensation or telling you that you will not lose any of your compensation, however we believe there are a number of problems with companies that do this.

  • How do they make their money if they don’t charge you anything?
  • If they aren’t taking any money from you, the client, what incentive do they have to ensure you receive the right level of compensation, appropriate to the injuries you have sustained?
  • Fully preparing a case, finding out exactly what happened and what the consequences of your injuries may mean in the long term, is expensive, how do they do this properly?
  • If they aren’t fully preparing these cases will they just accept the first offer they are given on your behalf by the Insurance company?
  • It makes simple business sense, the less work they do the higher their profit margin is - they simply have no incentive to work harder on your behalf.
  • These adverts in the main are from English firms on national television which operates in a different way and therefore wouldn’t apply to a Scottish person.

We know from the many client cases we mandate from other firms of solicitors (in the main at the request of the client who is extremely unsatisfied with the service received for the other firm) that many shortcuts are taken in preparation and that the first offer received is being recommended for acceptance, regardless of the value. 

Getting something for nothing is usually the first sign of poor service.

Correct level of compensation with Digby Brown

Our experience and statistics show time and time again we will achieve the correct level of compensation which will be substantially more than the insurer is initially prepared to offer.

Even after we have deducted our percentage as a success fee you will gain considerably more than you would have achieved using a 100% compensation model.

Contact Digby Brown's personal injury solicitors

We have offices across Scotland in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Kirkcaldy, Inverness, Aberdeen and Ayr.

For further information about no win, no fee, or anything else, call us on 0333 200 5925 or fill in our enquiry form below and someone will get back in touch with you.

How to make a silicosis-related claim?

To make a claim, an individual first needs to be diagnosed with silicosis or silicosis-related illness such as COPD or TB. Once this is done, the next step is to contact your local Digby Brown office and an industrial disease solicitor will guide you through the process of making a claim.

There are however a few main steps involved in making a claim:

  1. Getting medical confirmation of your diagnosis
  2. Description of the kind of work you did and who you were working for
  3. Obtaining evidence of your employment history
  4. Gathering evidence of negligence or fault on behalf of your employer

How long do I have to make a silicosis claim?

Generally speaking, you have three years from the date of diagnosis to make a silicosis compensation claim. This date should be confirmed in your medical records so this is why it’s important to start the legal process as soon as you find out and not delay.  If your exposure to silica is continuing, then you also have three years from the last date you were exposed to the substance to pursue a claim.

Can I make a claim if the company I worked for no longer exists?

Yes, you can still make a claim if the company you worked for no longer exists. The reason for this is simple – even though a company may no longer exist, the historic insurance policies it held should still be active. Our Industrial Disease team has decades of experience in overcoming such challenges – our people already do this on a daily basis while supporting people with claims for asbestos diseases, such as mesothelioma.

What is crystalline silica?

Silica, which causes Silicosis is a common, naturally occurring substance found in stones, rocks, clay and sand, as well as products such as bricks, tiles, concrete and some plastic composites.

When fine silica dust is released during industrial processes such as cutting, drilling and grinding, it can be inhaled. Crystalline silica particles are over 100 times smaller than the sand on beaches but these particles are abrasive and harmful to the delicate insides of the human body such as the lining of the lungs.

Different materials contain varying amounts of silica. If you worked with the materials or stones in the list below, there is a likelihood of you being exposed to silica dust.

Types of stone

Amount of silica present

Sandstone

70–90%

Concrete/mortar

25–70%

Tile

30% - 45%

Granite

20% - 40% but typically 30%

Slate

20% - 40%

Brick

Up to 30%

limestone

2%

Marble

2%

What should my employer be doing to protect me?

Every employer in the UK is required to abide by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002.  They have an obligation to carry out risk assessments where there is exposure to dangerous substances such as crystalline silica dust.  If it is not possible to prevent entirely the release of such dust, controls should be put in place to reduce the risk to workers in order that the risk is “as low as is reasonably practicable”. In order to do so, they should:

  1. Stop or reduce the dust
    They should consider ways of stopping or reducing the amount of dust you might make. Use different materials, less powerful tools or other work methods.
  2. Control the dust
  3. Use of water to damp down clouds of dust on tool extraction systems to remove dust as it is being produced.
  4. Provide Respiratory protective equipment (RPE) -  Masks with an assigned protection factor (APF) 15

Can I be compensated for developing a silica related lung condition?

Yes. If your employer has negligently exposed you to respirable crystalline silica and you have received a diagnosis of a silica related lung disease, then you may be entitled to both state benefits and civil compensation.  The solicitors in our Industrial Disease team specialise in pursuing these types of claims and would be happy to speak to you.

What should I do if I am concerned that I have a silica related lung condition?

In the first instance, we would recommend that you speak to your GP and explain your working history.  They may well refer you for further investigations, in the form of a chest x-ray.

How long have we known that silica was dangerous?

The dangers associated with respirable crystalline silica (RCS) have been well known for several hundred years. Dr. Bernardino Ramazzini identified the presence of silica related lung disease in stone cutters in 1713 and the term ‘silicosis’ was first used in 1870.

More specifically, the knowledge of dangers of exposure to silica dust has been known in the UK since the early 20th century.

In 1995, the International Labour Organisation (ILO)/World Health Organisation Joint Committee on Occupational Health launched the Global Programme for the Elimination of Silicosis (GPES) from the world by 2030. 

What is the scale of the problem in the UK?

The Health and Safety Executive is clear that silica related lung diseases are both underdiagnosed and underreported.  Employers are not required to report incidences of silicosis under Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR).

Therefore, recorded numbers are likely to hugely underestimate the number of workers suffering from these entirely avoidable conditions.

It is estimated that there are approximately 900 silica related lung cancer deaths per year in the UK.  This estimate may be significantly low.

It is the view of the Health and Safety Executive that ‘silica is the biggest risk to construction workers after asbestos'. 

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