COPD Solicitors - Miners Injury Claim Lawyers

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If you have been diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) you should seek legal advice from experienced COPD solicitors. Our Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease COPD solicitors have many years experience in handling compensation claims arising from exposure to asbestos, coal dust and other environmental irritants found in workplaces.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is also medically termed as Chronic Obstructive Airway Disease (COAD). This disease is a broad term for emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other lung disorders in which the airways become narrowed. This narrowing leads to a limitation of the flow of air to and from the lungs causing shortness of breath. COPD in miners is often caused by breathing in asbestos/cotton fibres or coal/stone dust.

Legal advice at no cost from experienced COPD solicitors is available by calling our helpline, sending an email or submitting a contact form with your details. No Win No Fee legal representation is also available.

COPD from Mining

Coal dust, mineral dust and silica dust can irritate the sensitive tissues of the lungs and lead to the development of COPD.

Most workplace exposure to coal dust occurs during mining, however exposure can also occur during handling of the mined product during cleaning and blending processes or bulk handling at large coal fired facilities.

Asbestos is another irritant known to cause COPD. Asbestos-related diseases are most commonly found in workers who have been exposed to high concentrations of asbestos fibres in the work environment. Asbestos presents a hazard only if fibres become airborne and are inhaled. The extent to which an asbestos mineral may release respirable fibres depends on the degree to which it is impacted upon through handling and processing.

COPD Symptoms

Symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease include:

  • cough with phlegm
  • shortness of breath
  • chest tightening
  • wheezing
  • feelings of anxiety because of breathlessness
  • fatigue
  • poor appetite
  • weight loss
  • muscle wasting

Complications of COPD include chest infections, collapsed lungs, pneumonia, fluid retention, and heart problems.

COPD Diagnosis

Your General Practitioner should take a thorough medical history and occupational history from you, perform an examination and order some tests to confirm your diagnosis.

Pulmonary function tests, arterial blood gas measurements, pulse oximetry, chest x-ray, CT scan, lung diffusion studies and sputum culture, are some of the diagnostic tests used by doctors when they suspect COPD.

To assist with treatment, your GP may advise you to see a respiratory physician. This is a doctor who specialises in treating people who have lung disorders and diseases.

COPD Treatment

There is no cure for COPD. COPD is a distressing disease which progressively limits activities of daily living. Treatment is aimed at alleviating symptoms and stopping the disease from getting worse.

Treatment options include:

  • Bronchodilators (inhalers).
  • Nebulisers.
  • Steroids.
  • Antibiotics for lung infections.
  • Flu vaccine, as flu can exacerbate the disease.
  • Cease smoking.
  • Management of any anxiety and depression.
  • Improve diet and exercise.
  • Surgery - bullectomy; lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS); lung transplant.


Silica is a naturally occurring mineral. Miners of metals, minerals and coal can all be potentially exposed to crystalline silica dust. Rocks such as granite and quartz have high concentrations of crystalline silica. When these rocks are drilled, crushed or broken in the mining process, some of the silica may turn into dust. Even if the product being mined doesn't contain silica dust (metal ores, coal, etc.), many rocks that need to be drilled into and removed in the process, often contain silica, therefore posing a serious threat of exposure to silica dust.

The greater the amount of dust created and the tighter the workspace and lack of ventilation, the greater the risk of developing an occupational silica disease. Prolonged exposure, especially over several years, also increases the risk of developing silicosis.

Silica exposure and silica disease often lead to other lung diseases as well. Some of these respiratory diseases and complications include: lung cancer, tuberculosis, fibrosis, bronchitis, and emphysema. Tuberculosis is the most common complication of silicosis.

Silicosis Symptoms

Silicosis occurs by breathing in silica dust particles which then lodge in the lungs. The silica particles deposit in the small air sacs known as alveoli where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged. The silica particles cause fibrous tissue to form in the air sacs which in turn makes the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide more difficult. The result is that the person feels short of breath. Other symptoms include: tiredness, dry coughing, wheezing.


A chest x-ray and/or CT scan together with a thorough work history obtained from the patient, are the usual methods of diagnosing silicosis. Fibrous tissue will show on these scans. In most cases, a CT scan is preferable because it is more sensitive for detecting silicosis as well as the transition from simple to more severe or 'conglomerate silicosis'. A chest CT scan also can better distinguish asbestosis from silicosis.

Lung function tests can be performed using a spirometer. This test assesses the performance of the lungs.


Unfortunately there is no cure for silicosis. Even if the worker is removed from the environment, the disease will progress over time. Whole lung lavage and/or the use of oral corticosteroids are treatment options with limited success at alleviating symptoms. Lung transplantation is a last-resort.

Prevention is best. Tools causing dust should be fitted with dust extraction devices. Adequate ventilation systems should be in place. Workers should have regular medical check-ups and x-rays to allow for early diagnosis.


Coal worker's pneumoconiosis (also known as 'Black Lung') is a disease caused by breathing in coal dust or graphite. The higher the carbon content of the coal, the greater the risk of pneumoconiosis. Coal miners have the most obvious risk of inhaling hazardous amounts of dust, depending on how effective the mine ventilation is and its method of suppression of dust.

The risk of contracting Black Lung is higher when working in underground mines compared with open cast mines. Miners who are exposed to residual dust from burned coal known as 'fly ash' are also at risk of developing CWP.

There are also other types of pneumoconioses that can develop as a result of exposure to asbestos, silica, and minerals such as talc, mica, kaolin, and metals such as beryllium, cobalt, chromium, and cadmium.

Black Lung Symptoms

Simple pneumoconiosis does not usually cause symptoms. However, if a person has a pre-existing airway disease such as bronchitis or emphysema, pneumoconiosis can cause the person to feel short of breath and to cough often. Smokers with coal workers' pneumoconiosis are more likely to have symptoms.

If simple pneumoconiosis does progress to cause fibrosis in the lungs, the person will start to feel symptoms such as breathlessness and a persistent cough. A more serious form of the disease is known as pulmonary massive fibrosis which causes large scars to develop in the lungs. This scarring can cause permanent damage to lung tissue and blood vessels.

Prevalence of progressive massive fibrosis after a working lifetime of exposure to coal dust in underground miners is estimated to be between 1.3 and 2.9 % in Australia.

Pneumoconiosis Diagnosis

Coal dust spreads throughout the lungs and shows up in x-rays as tiny spots. Diagnosis of pneumoconiosis is usually made after noting these characteristic spots on lung x-rays and CT scans. The patient history usually reveals that they have worked in a coal mine or otherwise been exposed to coal dust for at least 5 years. Latency between exposure and diagnosis is usually 10 or more years.

Pneumoconiosis Treatment

Treatment for both simple coal miners pneumoconiosis and complicated coal worker's pneumoconiosis is symptomatic. Use oxygen as hypoxaemia demands.

Prevention is crucial because there is no cure for coal workers' pneumoconiosis. The disorder can be prevented by adequately suppressing coal dust at the work site. Ventilation systems may help. Face masks that filter and purify the air may provide limited protection.

Doctors usually recommend that coal workers have chest x-rays every year, so that the disease can be detected as early as possible. If the disease is detected, the worker should be transferred to an area where coal dust levels are low to help prevent progressive massive fibrosis.


In one study it was estimated that a person with 20 or more years of experience in underground gold mining had around five times the rate of chronic bronchitis, with or without functional obstruction, and eight times the rate of chronic bronchitis with a restrictive disorder.

Underground experience in mining minerals other than gold conferred similar levels of risk. Coal miners have higher mortality and morbidity rates from chronic bronchitis and lower ventilation capacities than men of the same age in other occupations.

Symptoms of Occupational Bronchitis

A person with chronic occupational bronchitis will have a persistent mucus-producing cough that is present most days of the month, or for three months of the year for two successive years. The person may have trouble breathing normally, wheezing, and a tight feeling in the chest when breathing.

Chronic Bronchitis Diagnosis

A doctor will take a thorough medical history and conduct an examination. They will usually perform Pulmonary Function Testing (PFT) to measure the airflow and volume of air in the patient's lungs.

Arterial blood samples may also be taken to measure oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.

A chest x-ray and/or CT scan of the lungs may also be ordered, to confirm the diagnosis of chronic bronchitis and to rule out the existence of other lung diseases.

Chronic Bronchitis Treatment

Patients are advised to quit smoking, avoid dust, fumes and pollution.

A bronchodilator which is a type of inhaler that provides medicine to open and relax the lung airways may make it easier to breathe.

Steroids may be inhaled as an aerosol spray, to help relieve symptoms. Over time, however, inhaled steroids can cause various side effects, such as weakened bones, diabetes and cataracts.

Persons with chronic bronchitis are also prone to respiratory infections and may need antibiotics. They should also receive a flu vaccine annually and pneumonia vaccine every five to seven years to help prevent infections.

For patients with reduced blood oxygen levels, oxygen therapy is necessary to relieve symptoms and help prolong life. In severe cases of chronic bronchitis, surgery may be needed. Lung volume reduction surgery involves removing small sections of damaged lung tissue.

The goal of treatment for chronic bronchitis is to relieve symptoms, prevent complications such infections, and slow the progression of the disease.


Our personal injury solicitors deal with compensation claims using a no win no fee arrangement which means that if you don't win then you don't pay them their professional costs. If you would like legal advice at no cost with no further obligation just complete the contact form or email our lawyers offices or use the helpline and a COPD solicitor will review your compensation claim and phone you immediately.

LAWYER HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 090