Tradie becomes youngest victim of deadly dust disease
A GOLD Coast machine operator, 22, has become the youngest person diagnosed with potentially deadly silicosis after working for just three years with manufactured stone bench tops.
Connor Downes, who has been unable to work since being diagnosed last month, is on a national registry of hundreds of affected workers preparing for a class action led by law firm Slater and Gordon against stone bench top manufacturers.
"The dangers of crystalline silica have been well known by these manufacturers," Mr Hart said.
"Manufacturers knew that the new engineered stone products presented a new very high level of risk because of the extremely high concentration of silica in the product."
An industry audit released in February revealed 98 Queensland stone masons had contracted the potentially deadly disease with 15 of those terminal.
The audit followed a State Government crack down late last year on the industry after a sudden spike in the number of confirmed cases of silicosis.
Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace banned dry cutting of stone however the audit found 550 workplace breaches after the industry became aware of the issue.
In March, 36-year-old Gold Coast stone mason Anthony White become the first known worker to die from silicosis.
It's understood significant cases are also being recorded in Victoria however its expected rates recorded in Queensland will eventually be mirrored around the country.
Mr Downes, who was diagnosed last month after working for three years as a labourer and machine operator at a now defunct stone bench top factory, said he had never been warned about the dangers of silicosis.
He said his workplace wet cut the manufactured stone during his three years but dust still covered the factory every day.
"That's why I honestly thought I was sweet because I was told it's an all wet factory, you're all good … and that's when the doctor came back and said, 'no, it's still in the water vapour when it's in the air, still all over floor'."
He said when he jumped into his van to drive home at the end of the day "a big puff of smoke" from the dust came off his clothes.
"I've only been there three years and I've been diagnosed so I think everyone else should be getting checked," he said.