Exercising with Silicosis a Worker’s Compensation Case-Study

Silicosis has seen a resurgence in the last five years despite the disease being well documented through the 1940s to 1960s with the cause known and safety professionals actioning a variety of measures to combat exposure and contraction. Silicosis is the result of exposure to crystalline silica dust a mineral found in quartz, sand, stone, soil, granite, brick, cement, grout, mortar, bitumen and engineered stone products. Exposure occurs when the mineral particles become air-born and are breathed in. High-risk occupations and tasks include; sand blasting, cutting, excavating, building on sandstone, demolition work, tunnelling, quarry work and mining, air-polishing concrete, foundry work, bricklaying, stone masonry, making glass and ceramics. Symptoms of Silicosis include cough, breathlessness and tiredness.

Recently I met with a worker’s compensation client diagnosed with Silicosis. The client had developed the disease whilst working as a Stonemason. He had been a fit individual taking part in regular exercise, though noted a decline in his cardiovascular function and increased fatigue during everyday tasks. Upon referral from his GP the patient commenced an exercise rehabilitation programme designed to maintain his current level of capacity through a mixture of training methods. Following the implementation of four different exercise programmes, targeting different systems of the body, the patient demonstrated improvements in his strength and cardiovascular fitness.

In addition to the physical benefits of increased function, the client reported additional benefits of re-establishing routine, given he was no longer able to work for his previous employer. The worker has developed a passion for occupational health and safety to ensure the safety measures that could have prevented him to the exposure are widely used, including; the use of industry rated dusk masks and wetting down of surfaces.

Although there is no known cure for silicosis this case-study demonstrates that the appropriately prescribed exercise can assist in the maintenance of function, in addition to many biopsychosocial benefits.

Ingrid Hand

BSc – ExHealthSc| GraddipSc – ExRehab| MSc – HumMvt

Director, Complex Claims Specialist