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Sponsored content by Catie Norman

Sometimes it takes an outsider to help us see our own problems with fresh eyes. Last month, our brand ambassador, American environmental activist and consumer advocate Erin Brockovich, came to Australia to do what she does best: poke the beehive. For too long, state and federal governments in this country have been ignoring a common but deadly occupational hazard affecting stonemasons.

It’s called silicosis and it’s an untreatable lung disease that could easily be prevented if only authorities were bold enough to take action.

At a press conference in Brisbane, Ms Brockovich wasted no time holding their feet to the fire.

“There’s an opportunity here to get ahead of the problem before it becomes the next mesothelioma,” she told a room packed with reporters.

On an almost daily basis, Shine Lawyers fields calls from stonemasons around the nation. Most of them are men in their 30s and 40s who are often the main breadwinners of the family.

Their capacity to make a living has been destroyed and their lives cut short.

In Queensland alone, there have been 164 workers compensation claims for silicosis from stonemasons, including 22 advancing to progressive massive fibrosis and requiring lung transplant surgery for survival.

We are also seeing these workers suffering from crippling autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma, diseases more readily associated with senior citizens.

Victoria is the next battleground. Here, the state government has announced an abolition of the dangerous practice of dry cutting engineered stone, used to make benches in household kitchens and bathrooms.

But elsewhere in Australia, regulators are lagging behind. This is a national crisis and it requires a national solution.

As Ms Brockovich made clear in her remarks, we have known about this issue for years. The time for investigation, debate and reporting is over. The time for action is now.

“We could have easily got ahead of mesothelioma if we had started having conversations like this early, getting awareness out there early and getting information to employees so they could protect their health and welfare,” Ms Brockovich said.

The Morrison government must step in and roll out rigorous regulation and legislative reform of the industry for we cannot stand by and watch another asbestos legacy sweep the nation.


Catie Norman is the
Sunshine Legal Practice Manager at Shine Lawyers.

Contact Shine Lawyers to schedule a free no-obligation consultation on 1800 860 461.

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