It starts with a cough, but can quickly go from bad to worse. Lung diseases are the most feared diseases in the workplace, as they can either spread rapidly or indicate something bad. Worst of all will be cough that is diagnosed as being full blow asbestos’s.

Lung conditions result from prolonged inhalation of dangerous fumes and irreparable dusts which (in the long run) causes the lungs to malfunction or develop an infection. The risk of lung problems and associated diseases are particularly high in the construction, mining and manufacturing industries where dust and fumes are part of the job. The lung diseases that are feared most are lung cancer and asbestos’s. Once either of these diseases is diagnosed, they are very difficult to, if not impossible to treat.

Employees suspected of suffering from asbestos’s related lung diseases or lung cancer should be sent for a medical check immediately. If a diagnosis is made based on positive cytology results, such a diagnosis should be supported by clinical features and radiology investigation. Medical Officers in the Compensation Office will then determine if asbestos’s or cancer is present and if the diagnosis was made according to acceptable medical standards.

If the diagnosis is confirmed, it will result in 100% impairment recognition by the Compensation Office.

Employers are expected to submit the following documentation to support their employee's claim:

  • Employers report of an Occupational Disease (WCL 1). As asbestos’s can be diagnosed years after it was contracted, and at a time when the employee is no longer employed by the employer, the new employer will be expected to complete the WCL1 but no liability will be attributed to this employer
  • if the employer does not submit a WCL1 timeously, an affidavit by the employee will do
  • Notice of an Occupational Disease and Claim for Compensation (WCL 14)
  • First medical report in respect of an Occupational Disease (WCL22)
  • Industrial history, indicating exposure to asbestos (WCL110)
  • Progress / final medical report with regard to the Occupational Disease (WCL26)
  • Histology / cytology report. This report should include the name of both the claimant and the pathologist as well as contact details, to enable the Compensation Office to verify the claim
  • Accompanying medical reports in support of the claim
  • Radiology reports and investigations (only when the cytological reports are used to confirm the diagnosis).
  • When it is claimed that the employee suffers from lung cancer, it will be expected that x-rays are also submitted to support the claim.

It is possible that lung problems only occur or are only identified years later – and perhaps at a time when the employee has left the employer. This won't make a difference for the Workmen's Compensation Office. Employers are, therefore, advised to keep records for as long as possible, to either support a claim or prove the claimant wrong. Failure to do so could result in the Workmen's Compensation Office immediately awarding a claim. Although this does not necessarily mean it will leave a company out of pocket, the subsequent negative publicity that can come with such an award could cost companies dearly.

Posted date: 9th Jul 2014
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