Silica: Grain of Beauty, Shard of Danger

Anziif who is the leading membership, education, training and professional development organisation for the insurance and finance industry posted an article which you can read here about how the Australian Government is banning engineered stone, and potentially even imported engineered stone due to the silicosis risk it’s having on Australian Workers. In this post below, we touch on how Insurance is critical to protect your business and its workers from Silica exposure with adequate insurance in place.

What is Silica?

Silica refers to silicon dioxide (SiO2), a compound commonly found in nature as quartz. It’s a major component of sand, rocks, and minerals.

What is Silica used for?

Silica has numerous industrial applications, including the manufacturing of glass, ceramics, cement. Silica is widely used in cement production, serving as a key ingredient in making concrete. It plays a crucial role in giving structures strength, cohesion, and durability.

The Risk of Silicia Exposure

Prolonged exposure to fine silica dust, often generated during activities like mining, or construction work, can pose serious health risks. Examples include concreters, stone masons, mining or any work that involves cutting, drilling, grinding, and sandblasting materials such as concrete, stone, brick, and sand which can all generate silica dust.

What is silicosis?

Silicosis is a lung disease resulting from inhaling silica dust over time. It causes lung inflammation and scarring, leading to symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue, and chest pain.

When does silicosis develop?

Silicosis typically develops after years of exposure to high levels of silica dust where the dust is disturbed.

How do you prevent silicosis?

Employers play a vital role in ensuring their employees are safe in the workplace. Enforcing the use of PPE, proper ventilation methods, and dust suppression can dramatically lower the silicosis risk to staff.

Is Silicosis covered by Workers Compensation?

Workers Compensation is mandatory insurance that employers purchase to protect their employees in the event of workplace injuries/accidents or illnesses. Workers’ compensation provides reimbursement for
– wages whilst off work;
– immediate and ongoing medical expenses;
– rehabilitation costs;
– disability compensation awards.

Workers’ compensation can cover diseases such as silicosis as a result of employment. However, coverage may vary depending on the specific terms of the insurance policy and circumstances surrounding the onset of the illness.

What is Public Liability Insurance?

Public liability insurance provides cover for businesses for claims brought against them for third party property damage or third party personal injuries in which they are liable for. This can include subcontractors.

Are silicosis claims covered under my public liability insurance?

Public liability insurance can extend to cover third parties for injuries or illness as a result of your negligence.
If your industry has a high exposure to silica dust, your policy will most likely exclude any bodily injury or property damage claims, including costs and expenses as a result of silica exposure claims brought against you.
There are only a couple of insurers that can extend to cover you for these claims.
Insurers exclude this from occupations such as builders, concreters and stonemasons as the Silica exposure can pose significant health risks, and can result in large claims for the insurance companies have to pay.

Why it pays to use an Insurance Broker

As an Insurance Broker, we research and analyse the entire market to ensure that the insurance cover recommend is going to protect your business.
We carefully review the insurers policy conditions, exclusions, including any silica exclusions, and consider whether additional coverage or risk management measures may be needed to address potential liabilities related to silica exposure.