Coal Workers' Pneumoconiosis in Queensland

12 February 2018

On 31 August 2017, the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation (Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 passed through Queensland Parliament.

The Bill amends the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Act) and Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Regulation 2014 (Regulation).

The Bill is a compromise between the Union desire for a specialised Dust Diseases Tribunal  in Queensland (such as that operating in New South Wales) and the need for early statutory payments for pneumoconiosis not currently available in the Act.

There are specific references to coal miners within the Bill. However, the amendments do not apply to coal miners only. The amendments apply to any worker who has sustained pneumoconiosis in an industry, not just mining, loading, transporting or otherwise dealing with coal.

The amendments provide that a worker is entitled to additional lump compensation of up to $120,000.00 if he/she has sustained an injury that is pneumoconiosis and his/her entitlement to compensation has not ended pursuant to s119 of the Act.  Such entitlement is only payable after the worker’s injury has been assessed under s179 of the Act and is in addition to any entitlement he/she may have to lump sum compensation under Chapter 3, Part 10 of the Act.

The amount of additional lump sum compensation is payable according to a graduated scale prescribed by the Regulation and based on the worker’s pneumoconiosis score and lodgement age.

Should the worker’s pneumoconiosis, which is a latent onset injury, be a terminal condition, compensation is still payable under s128B of the Act.

The payment of an additional lump sum also does not preclude a common law claim.  Should the worker’s DPI with respect to his/her pneumoconiosis be less than 20% or no DPI, he/she must still make an irrevocable election to accept the lump sum or claim damages pursuant to s189 of the Act.

A worker is also entitled to further additional lump sum compensation should he/she have already received additional lump sum compensation and his/her pneumoconiosis score for the injury increases and falls within a higher pneumoconiosis band (please note a worker’s pneumoconiosis score can increase but a worker remains within the same band).

Also, a worker with pneumoconiosis whom has either resolved his/her damages or has obtained judgment for damages is entitled to claim an additional lump sum if the settlement or judgment did not include damages to compensate the worker for the further progression of pneumoconiosis.  Hence, it will be necessary for any future release and discharge to resolve a common law claim to expressly state that it includes damages to compensate the worker for the future progression of his/her pneumoconiosis.

This article was written by Graeme Traves, Partner and Kyle Norton, Special Counsel.

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