Class action being prepared in response to silicosis cases

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Tuesday, 25 June, 2019 - 14:30
Industry news
National News

Law firm Slater and Gordon is preparing a national class action against the manufacturers of popular kitchen stone benchtops after the products led to thousands of stonemasons contracting silicosis.

The firm said it had experienced a surge in the number of workers approaching the firm after being involved in the manufacture of artificial stone bench tops, and who have been affected by silicosis – an incurable lung disease caused by inhaling hazardous silica dust found in stone bench top materials.

Even seemingly quite brief exposures to silica can involve significant levels of exposure to silica dust, and the firm said stonemasons cutting and installing the engineered stone products without proper equipment will inhale the dangerous dust particles.

Silica has been proven to cause lung cancer, scleroderma and other autoimmune diseases, however, the benchtops do not present a hazardous risk to the general public once they have been installed.

Slater and Gordon practice group leader Margaret Kent said major stone bench top suppliers such as Caesarstone, Quantum Quartz and Smartstone did not adequately communicate the severe safety risks in relation to their products, nor did they adequately convey the necessary safety precautions around its handling.

“Under Australian law the responsibility for harm caused in these circumstances rightly falls on the manufacturers involved,” 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.

“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.”

Silica is being described by physicians as the ‘new asbestos’, Kent added.

“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.”