A worker exposed to coal and pollutants while fighting a three-month Victorian mine fire has won a legal battle for compensation for his life-threatening illnesses.
David Briggs was an excavator operator fighting the 2014 Hazelwood mine fire over a 12-week period and has since been diagnosed with a rare interstitial lung disease and autoimmune condition.
Mr Briggs excavated burning coal so the fire could be easily managed and was not provided any respiratory protection, leaving him covered in coal dust and other particles, his lawyers Maurice Blackburn said.
He started to feel sick fewer than six months after finishing work at Hazelwood, required an oxygen tank to help him breathe and is not a candidate for a lung transplant due to the deterioration in his health.
But his attempt to get weekly payments and medical treatment expenses covered through WorkCover were rejected by Allianz, insurers for his employer RTL Mining and Earthworks.
Mr Briggs challenged the decision in a trial at Morwell Magistrates Court earlier this year.
On August 1, magistrate Simon Garnett granted Mr Briggs' right to compensation because the exposure to smoke, dust, fumes and substances contributed to the injury suffered by him.
"We were just thrown in there to put out the fire whatever the consequences, so it's a relief knowing that the court agreed," Mr Briggs said in a statement.
RTL Mining and Earthworks has until the end of August to appeal the ruling.
Australian Associated Press