Published: 10 March 2017
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WorkCover will cover you for work related skin cancers

As a lawyer, I spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer and working indoors for much of the day. But many workers, and especially people working in trades, spend much of the day exposed to the harsh Australian sun, which can unfortunately lead to skin injuries and sometimes, cancers.

If someone working  in these conditions has been diagnosed with a medical condition or injury as a result of that exposure, claims can be made to their self-insured employer or their employer’s authorised agent to pay for their medical treatment associated with the condition, and any periods of time they are unable to attend work or are restricted in the number of hours they can work.

These benefits are paid in accordance with the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013 (Vic); for more information as to how those benefits are calculated, read our separate article here.

In the worst case scenario where a worker diagnosed with such a medical condition dies as a result of that condition, there are benefits (both lump sum benefits, and pension-type benefits in some circumstances) payable to the worker’s family/dependents as a result of that worker’s unfortunate passing. The benefits are not insignificant, and are worth pursuing.

Although being in this position is not something we would wish on any working family, if you do find yourself in this position, we strongly recommend you seek legal advice as soon as possible so that the claims can be investigated and pursued on your behalf in what would be undoubtedly difficult circumstances.

How do I claim these benefits?

If you are diagnosed with a skin cancer-related condition and spend significant periods of time being exposed to the sun, you should make a WorkCover claim to your employer as soon as possible after having become aware of the diagnosis. Technically, workers are required to make such a claim within 28 days of the date of their injury, or within 28 days of having become aware of the injuries. 

The insurer/self-insurer will then have 28 days (once they receive the claim from your employer) to decide whether or not to accept your claim. In making any decisions you may be referred to an Independent Medical Examiner who will prepare a report to assist the insurer in making a decision.

What if I’ve had pre-existing cancerous conditions?

If you’ve been diagnosed with a cancerous condition in the past, it can complicate a WorkCover claim, but it certainly doesn’t in and of itself make it impossible and you should lodge a claim nonetheless to avoid any delays. Worker’s injury claim forms can be downloaded from the WorkSafe website, if your employer does not keep any at the workplace.

What if my claim is rejected?

As with any injuries, not just those that are skin cancer-related, if you ever receive a rejection notice from a self-insurer or an authorised insurer of WorkSafe, you should seek legal advice within 60 days of the date of that notice. Every decision made by an insurance company can be disputed and reviewed (if necessary) by a Court.

Workers in this position should be aware that if quick action is not taken on the receipt of any rejection notices, they may be prevented from challenging the decision at all down the track, so it’s always important to act quickly and contact one of our offices.

And be careful out there 

The statistics (obtained from the SunSmart website) are pretty black and white:

  • 2 out of 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70;
  • More than 2,000 Australians die from skin cancer each year;
  • The most commonly diagnosed cancer among adolescents and young adults is melanoma, accounting for more than a quarter of all cancers among Australians aged 15-29 years old;
  • In 2014, 386 Victorians died from skin cancer; 1.5 times the road toll for that year; and
  • About 5,000 people are diagnosed nation-wide with work-related cancer each year.

All workers working for significant periods of time in the outdoors should always be conscious of the environment they’re working in. This includes the prevailing weather conditions for that day and the UV strength. All workers should take appropriate steps to ensure they remain protected against the sun.

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