Mining workers file class action lawsuit over silicosis caused by exposure to airborne silica dust

by John Chapman

A group of mine workers has filed a class action lawsuit alleging that they developed silicosis as a result of exposure to airborne silica dust. The workers contend that their families now face severe financial hardship as a result of their illnesses in addition to the chronic health problems that they themselves face.

The lawsuit, filed against 32 gold mining companies in Johannesburg, South Africa, alleges that the mine workers became ill as a result of the companies’ failure to adequately protect them against the health risks of silica exposure. Many of the workers were also diagnosed with tuberculosis due to the unsafe working conditions present in the mines.

The class action was originally filed by former mine worker Bongani Nkala and 55 other miners against the Harmony Gold Mining Company. After the lawsuit was granted class action status in South African court, the case was expanded to include thousands of mine workers stretching back as far as 1956 who developed silicosis or other health problems as a result of silica exposure in the mines. A second class action lawsuit will cover the workers who were diagnosed with tuberculosis.

Lawyers representing the class action plaintiffs say that Harmony Gold and other mining companies involved in the lawsuit made a deliberate financial calculation not to take adequate safety precautions to protect their workers. The attorneys allege that the mine companies determined that it would be cheaper to pay legal damages to the workers who became ill as a result of exposure to silica dust than it would have been to enact safety measures that would have protected them from developing health problems.

Attorneys in the case say that the goal of the class action lawsuit is to provide mine workers who were diagnosed with silicosis or tuberculosis with compensation to help their families with medical expenses related to their illnesses. Policy experts that were admitted to testify in the case as friends of the court say that they hope the lawsuit will be able to help mine workers outside of South Africa from the neighboring countries of Lesotho and Swaziland.

Fracking, Construction Workers at Risk of Silicosis from Airborne Silica Dust Exposure

Workers in the United States may also be at risk of developing silicosis or other respiratory diseases caused by exposure to airborne silica in the workplace. Construction workers who regularly grind, cut, or sand materials containing silica—including concrete, stone, brick, or granite—may be at risk of developing silicosis as a result of this exposure. Oil drilling and fracking workers also face risks of silicosis due to the high volume of silica sand used at drilling sites.

Federal law requires employers to maintain a safe working environment and to provide workers with the training and equipment necessary to limit their risk of silica exposure. Despite federal safety regulations, exposure to airborne silica continues to jeopardize the health of thousands of workers across the country. Since 1968, more than 14,000 workers in the U.S. have died from silicosis, many from inhaling airborne dust particles created by cutting or grinding construction materials.

When employers neglect their duty to keep workers safe from the dangers of airborne silica, workers who have been diagnosed with silicosis or other diseases caused by silica exposure may be eligible to file a lawsuit in a court of law. The law firm of Heygood, Orr & Pearson was founded on the principle that everyone—including workers who are hurt on the job and victims of dangerous drugs or other defective products— should have access to experienced legal counsel. Our firm has the experience and financial resources to handle personal injury cases involving workplace exposure to silica or other injuries from start to finish. At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we are committed to achieving justice for our clients, whatever the cost.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with silicosis, lung cancer, or other respiratory illnesses after being exposed to airborne silica sand at a fracking site, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the oil and drilling company that may have been responsible for your injuries. For a free legal consultation about your case and to find out if you may qualify to file a lawsuit, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also contact our staff by following this link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few simple questions about your case to get started.