Knowledge base

Blast Injury Compensation

Blast injury at work

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.

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What is a blast injury?

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.

Blast types

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:

Fire extinguisher and consequences of a blast injury
  • Mining, quarrying, civil engineering
  • Fireworks
  • Construction and demolition
  • Industrial plants
  • Jet blasts – jet planes create sudden, rapid air force as their engines prepare for take-off. This has featured in the news as quite often a deliberate tourist pursuit, for example in the Cook Islands. Tourists attend small runways where jet planes are forced to back up as close to the perimeter fences (where tourists stand) as possible to take off successfully. The force can be strong enough to flatten buildings.

Can I claim blast injury compensation?

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.

Blast injury at work – can I claim compensation?

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.

This includes:

  • providing safe systems of work
  • maintaining safe machinery and equipment
  • maintaining a safe workplace; and
  • providing employees with adequate facilities, training, supervision and instruction.

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.

Mine worker suffering a blast injury
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

Blast injury – what can I claim for?

General Damages

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.

Medical treatment after suffering blast injury at work

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. 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.

Medical Costs

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.

Rehabilitation costs

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.

Estimating loss of future earnings

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.

Blast injuries – the hazards

Blasting is itself an inherently dangerous activity. Apart from the impact of the blast itself, other hazards include:

Airborne contaminants and blast hazards
  • Falling objects and structures
  • Flying debris
  • Airborne contaminants such as toxic fumes
  • Inadequate blast area security and protective shelters
  • Lack of training and communication.

Common blast-related injuries

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:

  • Blast ear: rupturing the internal membrane, damage to the eardrum.
  • Blast lung: injury including haemorrhage (which can cause suffocation and death)
  • Blast brain: damage to brain tissue
  • Blast eye: the eyeball can rupture
  • Blast belly: causing haemorrhage, intestinal damage.

Other organs can be affected. Testicular rupture is also a potential injury. The above are the most common, however.

Lung injury caused by inhaling fumes

Primary blast injuries can be dangerous, especially as they may not show immediate symptoms.

Some primary blast injury symptoms to look out for are:

  • Blast ear: pain, bleeding, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), hypersensitive hearing, dizziness/vertigo
  • Blast lung: coughing, chest pain, coughing up blood, shortness of breath
  • Blast brain: headache, seizures, motor control issues, dizziness, problems with memory, speech, concentration
  • Blast eye: vision loss, bruising, bleeding, conjunctivitis
  • Blast belly: abdominal pain, bleeding, nausea, vomiting, pain in lower regions such as rectum and testicles.

Other blast injuries include:

  • Injury from flying debris
  • The blast force driving a person against other objects causing injury, including amputation or impalement
  • Smoke, fume or dust inhalation causing respiratory problems
  • Burns, chemical exposure
  • Radiation or biological exposure.

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?

Calculating blast injury claim settlement

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:

  • the severity of the injury: more severe injuries will attract more compensation
  • the age of the patient: young people are likely to receive greater compensation than older people for a similar injury as it will impact their lifestyle and employment for a longer period of time.
  • level of health prior to the incident: an active and healthy person may suffer more from an injury because they are unable to exercise the way they did prior to the accident and may become predisposed to mood disorders and other health conditions they may not have suffered were it not for their injury.
  • pre-incident lifestyle: injured claimants who formerly engaged in activities they can no longer participate in may experience greater an impact from their injuries.
  • occupation: greater compensation will be payable where a person’s ability to work in their former occupation is impacted severely by their injuries.

How long do I have to start a blast injury claim?

For most personal injury claims, a legal action must be commenced within 3 years of the date of the injury. If you miss this deadline, you will lose the right to claim compensation.

Time limits to start a blast injury compensation claim

However, depending on where your injury occurred or who you are claiming against, specific pre-court procedures may apply which may have much shorter time limits. If you miss these time limits you may lose your right to claim unless you can provide good reason for delaying and why you should be allowed to proceed with your claim. 

Those aged under 18 will typically have until they are 21 to start the claims process.

In addition, getting accurate records such as CCTV or reliable witness statements for example may be difficult if starting a claim several years after the incident.

In summary, it’s best to seek expert legal advice as soon as possible to ensure you understand your rights and the required evidence to make a strong claim can be gathered. View time limit information article for more detail.

Next steps: what to do if you have suffered a blast injury?

Depending on the nature of your injury and the circumstances which caused it, compensation may or may not be available. Get in touch calling 1800 266 801 and speak to our expert personal injury lawyers based in Brisbane, Gold Coast, and Sunshine Coast.

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Last update on:
June 1, 2021
Disclaimer: This information is designed for general information in relation to Queensland compensation law. It does not constitute legal advice. We strongly recommend you seek legal advice in regards to your specific situation. For expert advice call 1800 266 801 or chat via live chat to arrange free initial advice with our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.

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