WorkCover win for Hazelwood fire fighter upheld by Victorian Supreme Court

22 April 2021
A Victorian man left with a serious lung disease after working to contain the 2014 Hazelwood mine fire had had his successful WorkCover claim upheld by the Victorian Supreme Court.

An experienced excavator operator, David Briggs spent 12 weeks helping to contain the open cut mine fire which took hold in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley in early 2014.

Maurice Blackburn Principal, Sally Weir says his employer, RTL Mining and Earthworks failed to provide Mr Briggs with any respiratory protection while carrying out his duties

“Mr Briggs’ skin and clothing were covered in smoke, coal dust and other pollutants at the end of each shift.

“Six months later he began feeling flu-like symptoms and has since been diagnosed with a rare interstitial lung disease and autoimmune condition and now was to carry an oxygen cylinder at all times to help him breath,” Ms Weir said.

“David’s WorkCover claim was initially rejected by the insurer but we were able to successfully argue in court that there was a causal link between his work at the mine fire and his health conditions.

“Now the Victorian Supreme Court has rejected the insurer’s attempt to have that decision overturned on appeal, vindicating our client’s long fight for justice,” Ms Weir said.

“Mr Briggs’ employer was obliged to provide every reasonable protection for all of its workers fighting to bring that toxic fire under control.

“It’s failure to do so has had devastating consequences for Mr Briggs and it is deeply satisfying to see him get the compensation and assistance he deserves,” Ms Weir said.

“I know that for many years following the fire, Mr Briggs had a really hard time financially with no income plus increasing medical expenses, all while his health was deteriorating.

“I am so pleased the legal process is now finally finished and Mr Briggs can now focus on his health and future with the assurance of weekly compensation payments and his medical expenses being met,” Ms Weir said.

“Every worker injured while doing their job deserves no less.”

Media inquiries:  Rebecca Nash at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers on 0438 497 539

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