Explosions – whether planned or accidental, mechanical, nuclear chemical – provide one of the most dangerous situations we can find ourselves in.
They are often a necessary aspect of work in various industries, though.
And while it is rare that – with something so serious and potentially fatal – people don’t follow safety protocols, when injuries do happen they are inherently going to be serious.
This article covers off on what blast injury is, when, where and how it might happen, and what to do if you find yourself in the unfortunate circumstances of having suffered an injury as a result of one.
The force from explosions – when it is large enough – causes supersonic pressure, resulting in blast waves.
People within the vicinity of any such explosions can suffer an injury – either resulting directly from the blast itself, or from its secondary (and tertiary, and quaternary!) effects.
Blasts can be accidental – for example, highly volatile materials like those found in fertilizers or fuels – can cause severe blasts.
Blasts are more often planned – for example, in:
If you have suffered injury as a result of using a saw or blast, you may be able to claim compensation. Most blast-related injuries occur at home or at work. If it happens at work, you may be able to claim compensation if your workplace failed to provide you with a safe environment.
If you are injured at work, you may be able to claim compensation from your employer. Employers must provide proper and adequate means for employees to carry out their work.
If you are injured because your employer neglects to provide safe systems of work, equipment or a safe environment, you may be able to sue for personal injury compensation. This includes injuries incurred over a long period of time, late-onset injuries, and aggravations of pre-existing injuries.
Example: Andrew works on a mine in central Queensland.
A coal dust explosion occurred while Andrew was onsite. Andrew lost his leg in the explosion and suffered severe carbon monoxide poisoning, almost dying twice in intensive care.
Investigations of the explosion showed that it was probably caused by an electric spark in some electric bell signalling gear.
While Andrew’s employer would argue that the manufacturer or supplier of the gear causing the spark was at least partly to blame, their insurer would likely have to pay some compensation due to the fact that they are liable to Andrew for providing a safe workplace.
More info: See WorkCover claims
Apart from those near-misses, every worker can tell you about every now and again, it’s not often that blast-related injuries are minor. Chances are that if you have suffered an injury as a result of a blasting accident, you are facing the time and expense of extensive medical care.
General damages can compensate you for the pain and suffering you have experienced as well as any permanent loss of enjoyment of life as a result of your injury. They are calculated by reference to the ISV Scale which rates the seriousness of any injury between 1 and 100 and accords a monetary value range to that rating.
For example, an extreme injury such as traumatic limb amputation is rated up to 100 (the maximum severity) in the case of loss of a dominant limb with a corresponding compensation of up to $366,300[CHECK].. Compare this with a minor foot injury where the substantial function of the foot - this is rated not more than 5 with a corresponding compensation range of $1,450 to $5,800[CHECK].
To diagnose and treat an injury you may need to consult your general practitioner, consult a specialist, obtain x-rays or MRIs, take pain medications and wear medical supports or apparatus. The expenses you incur to obtain medical treatment including costs of consultations, diagnostic scans, travel costs, medication and medical equipment may be claimed as compensation. You can also claim for medical costs you will incur in the future as a result of your injury.
Hospital and surgical costs
You may require surgery as a result of your injury – for example, in the case of severe lacerations, tendon or ligament tears, and partial or full traumatic amputations.
Surgical and hospital costs paid by you can be claimed as compensation if the surgery was necessary to treat your condition.
Rehabilitating after a blast-related injury may involve physiotherapy, chiropractic treatments, acupuncture, home and vehicle modifications and ergonomic aids. Your reasonable costs of rehabilitation can be claimed back as compensation.
Loss of income and future earning capacity
If you suffer an injury you may need time off work for several weeks or months immediately after the incident. You can claim compensation for lost income. If your injury prevents you from working to the same extent as you did prior to the injury you may also be able to claim loss of future income earning capacity.
Occupations that require manual labour may be difficult or impossible for someone who has suffered a blast-related injury and their capacity to earn income in the future may be reduced. This is usually estimated as a lump sum figure based on the age of the person, their usual occupation and other skills.
Loss of Superannuation
Compensation can be claimed for superannuation that would have been paid on lost income.
Care & Assistance
Your injury may prevent you from being able to perform tasks such as personal care, cleaning, laundry, mowing your lawns, caring for the garden or other domestic chores. If you formerly performed these duties but are now unable to due to an injury you can claim compensation for care and assistance provided to you by friends, relatives or paid contractors.
In Queensland, there is a minimum threshold for this type of compensation.
Blasting is itself an inherently dangerous activity. Apart from the impact of the blast itself, other hazards include:
The nature and severity of injuries depend on factors such as the person’s distance from the blast, the type of blast and the protective gear available to them.
High order explosives have the highest supersonic pressure. Compare these with low order explosives (for example, gunpowder). Only high order explosives cause blast waves.
When someone suffers the impact of a blast wave through their body, this is referred to as primary blast injury. Primary blast injuries are usually:
Other organs can be affected. Testicular rupture is also a potential injury. The above are the most common, however.
Primary blast injuries can be dangerous, especially as they may not show immediate symptoms.
Some primary blast injury symptoms to look out for are:
Other blast injuries include:
Who’s at risk?
Those who work in areas such as mining, construction, tunnelling and demolition projects, as well as those who work with fireworks and in industrial plants.
Blast injuries occur primarily in the workplace.
How will my settlement be calculated?
In general terms, the settlement amount for a blast-related injury is gauged by comparing what your life was like before the injury and what it is like now, because of the injury. Someone whose injury has had a greater impact on their life will be entitled to more compensation than someone whose injury has had only minimal impact. The amount of compensation payable for an injury will vary greatly from case to case, depending on a variety of variables such as:
What time limits apply to claim?
For most personal injury claims, legal action must be commenced within 3 years of the date of the injury. If you miss this deadline, your claim will be statute barred and you will lose all rights to claim compensation. However, depending on where your injury occurred and who you are suing, specific pre-court procedures may apply. Pre-court procedures specify other time limits which are much sooner. If you miss these time limits you may lose your rights to claim unless you can convince the court that you had a good reason for delaying and why you should be allowed to claim. The time limits specified by some pre-court procedures are set out below.
If your injuries were sustained at work: Statutory workers’ compensation claims in Queensland must be filed within 6 months from the date of the accident or the date you become aware of your injury. If you intend to sue your employer for negligence (otherwise known as a common law claim) you must request an assessment of permanent impairment from the workers’ compensation insurer within 2.5 years of the injury.
If your injuries are the subject of a public liability claim: If you are making a claim for personal injuries against an occupier, property owner or public authority, pre-court procedures require you to serve an official Notice of Claim on the party you believe to be at fault within 9 months of the injury, or within 1 month of your consultation with a solicitor in relation to your claim, whichever is first.
If you are under 18 years of age
For minors, the obligation to serve the other party with a Notice of Claim begins when the child turns 18, however a parent or guardian may do this on behalf of the minor be they turn 18.
Depending on the nature of your injury and the circumstances which caused it, compensation may or may not be available.
It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.
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