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Calls for national ban on dry cutting techniques and tougher penalties amid new cases of tradies sick from toxic dustLeading plaintiff law firm Shine Lawyers is calling for a national ban on dry cutting practises in stonemasonry workshops. It comes after seeing an increase in the number of tradies falling ill from breathing in dust created when cutting artificial stone products.

Shine Lawyers is now speaking with half a dozen tradesmen from around the country, who have all contracted the deadly lung disease, silicosis, while working in businesses cutting artificial stone products used for kitchen and bathroom benchtops.

“The current method of dry cutting artificial stone creates plumes of dust which if inhaled over long periods can potentially lead to silicosis. We know wet cutting, using water to damp down the dust, is much safer but there is no regulation of the industry to enforce this practise,” explains Shine Lawyers Dust Diseases expert Roger Singh.

“We are now speaking with stonemasons who tell us that despite the awareness that’s been raised the dry cutting continues in their workplaces and wet cutting systems, and enforcement of proper face masks, that could prevent disease are not being installed. We cannot let this continue. Australians deserve safe workplaces,” said Mr Singh. 

“We have to learn from the awful legacy of asbestos and take action now to prevent more of our young stonemasons succumbing to what is a horrific disease and in some instances a terrible death,” said Mr Singh.

Shine Lawyers is calling on all State and Territory governments to make regulation and enforcement of artificial stone work practises a priority to improve health outcomes for stonemasons.

“I have written to all State and Territory Ministers in a bid to have dry cutting banned and an investigation and enforcement program introduced to ensure these dangerous practises are being stamped out,” said Mr Singh.

Shine Lawyers would like to see the introduction of tougher penalties and fines for workshops that don’t comply.

Stonemasons currently working in the industry are being urged to see a doctor for a health check and lung scan.

CLIENT STORY:

Anthony White is a 36 year old stonemason from the Gold Coast. He has handled and cut artificial  stone products for the last decade. He was diagnosed with silicosis in November 2017. 
 
“I want to make sure no one else has to go through this. It’s been absolutely horrendous for me and my family who have had to watch me get sicker and sicker. I had a chest infection that wouldn’t go away and mum noticed I was losing a lot of weight.  When I went to the doctor they sent me for all kinds of test and chest xrays and diagnosed me with silicosis,” said Mr White.
 
“Wearing protective gear wasn’t policed at any of my workplaces. There was so much dust flying around, you could feel the grit on your teeth and taste the dust in your mouth, but I didn’t think it was a problem. I had no idea it could make you this sick,” said Mr White.
 
“I would personally like to see rules enforced so nobody cuts it dry in any workplace anywhere in Australia. It’s dangerous and it’s putting lives at risk,” warns Mr White.
 
BACKGROUND ENGINEERED STONE/SILICOSIS:
  • Artificial or engineered stone contains a much higher percentage (95%) of silica than natural stone
  • The dust that is created when artificial  stone is being shaped or cut, when inhaled over long periods or at extreme levels, can cause debilitating lung diseases including silicosis
  • Artificial  stone is safe when it is installed as a finished product, it is only the dust from cutting that is dangerous
  • Silicosis is a progressive, irreversible lung disease cause by inhaling the dust which becomes trapped in the lungs, causing fibrotic nodules and scarring and impacting the ability to breathe
  • Silicosis can take 10 – 15 years to develop, it often starts with a cough that won’t go away
  • In 2017 a Queensland Parliamentary inquiry into Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis (Black Lung) heard silica was “more dangerous than coalmine dust”
  • Brisbane Tunnel workers were exposed to silica during the construction of the road network in 2017
LINKS TO INFORMATION

Cancer Council information and statistics on Silicosis https://www.cancer.org.au/content/Preventing%20cancer/workplace/2017/2017-10-09-Silica-Factsheet-Final.pdf

Australian Lung Foundation
http://lungfoundation.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Silica-fact-sheet.pdf

ABOUT SHINE LAWYERS:
  • Shine Lawyers has been operating for more than 40 years as a leading law company and specialises in damages-based plaintiff litigation.
  • It has 39 branches spanning across Australia and New Zealand.
  • The leading national company has delivered justice to more than 40,000 people to date.
  • Shine Corporate Ltd has been listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) since May 2013.
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