Youngest case of silicosis recorded in Australia

Youngest case of silicosis recorded in Australia

An Australian tradesman from the Gold Coast has become the youngest person to be diagnosed with silicosis, a fatal lung disease known as the ‘new asbestos’.

Connor Downes, 22, has been working with engineered stone and benchtops for three years when he decided to get himself checked after a friend was diagnosed.

Mr Downes said that for the last three years in the ‘wet-cut workplace’, dust was so prevalent it covered surfaces and flooring daily.

‘While everyone knew any sort of dust was going to be harmful, we didn’t know to what extent,’ Mr Downes said. 

Mr Downes is now joining a class action against the manufacturers of the product, and Slater and Gordon, who are leading the claim, have seen an increase in the numbers of workers who worked with the product and have since been diagnosed with silicosis.  

Practice Group Leader Margaret Kent told Daily Mail Australia ‘several major stone benchtop suppliers didn’t adequately explain safety risks or handling precautions to their employees.’

‘Under Australian law the responsibility for harm caused in these circumstances rightly falls on the manufacturers involved,’ Ms Kent said.

‘The extreme levels of harm caused by dust from stone bench-top products in Australia can be traced back to a small number of manufacturers.’

Ms Kent said: ‘It is a tragedy that so many people have, or will, become grievously ill just by going to work.

‘This class action will seek to ensure that the manufacturers are held to account for the harms their products have caused.

‘It is outrageous that a product is legally allowed to be used and sold when it when it poses such a severe risk to workers,’ she said.

Mr Downes’ case comes after an increase in the diagnosis of the disease, including Gold Coast stonemason Anthony White, who died from the disease in 2017.

In June, SafeWork Australia launched a new safety campaign for those working with products that produce respirable silica dust. Under the model WHS Regulations, PCBUs must provide health monitoring for workers if they carrying out ongoing work using, handling, generating or storing crystalline silica and there is a significant risk to the worker’s health because of exposure.

More information about the best practises, safe work standards and testing can be found at Safe Work Australia.

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