What is the real cost of a cheap kitchen benchtop renovation? Exposure to silica, potentially deadly autoimmune diseases and cutting down the lives of young tradies in their prime.
Our client Nic Lardieri is a 38-year-old father-of-two who should have his whole life ahead of him. However, he’s now crippled with an autoimmune disease that makes him feel like he’s 90 years old.
As a stonemason, Nic used Caesarstone products to build fashionable manmade stone kitchen bench tops and tables. He loved his job but never realised that as he cut into the benchtops, he was breathing in deadly silica dust.
After inhaling silica dust over a period of 13 years, 4 of which were spent self employed as a sub-contractor, he’s been diagnosed with silicosis and scleroderma. Nic is now making a stand and taking on the manufacturing giant in one of the first lawsuits of its kind in Victoria.
Since his diagnosis, Nic and his family’s lives have been significantly impacted physically, financially and emotionally. He’s now calling for change and is determined to bringing awareness to the dangers of silica exposure – especially for young tradesmen.
“The devastation this has caused my family and I is beyond words. There are some days I can barely move, and it’s only getting worse over time.
“There’s no safe way for these products to be cut. The only way we’re going to stop young tradies dying is to ban them outright,” he said.
Shine Lawyers’ Dust Disease National Special Counsel, Roger Singh, says there were no silica dust control measures in place at his various workplaces, and Caesarstone breached its duty of care by not adequately explaining the dangers of its product.
“Caesarstone knew, or should have known, about the deadly side effects of its high-silica stone and it should have warned anyone unfortunate enough to have used it,” Mr Singh said.
What happens after silica exposure?
Silica exposure is caused by the dust released from manmade stone materials, silicosis is the disease of the lungs that occurs after exposure and scleroderma is the autoimmune response. After inhaling silica dust, it causes excessive production of collagen which then causes connective tissue to harden and thicken. In severe cases, scleroderma affects vital organs, such as the heart, lungs, and kidneys, and can become life-threatening.
With common symptoms that can easily be dismissed as something else, the disease can, unfortunately, be diagnosed late into its progression.
Recent figures show the number of silicosis compensation claims rose to 470 nationally in 2021, more than double the figure from 2019. Mr Singh says employers need to implement silica dust control measures and manufacturing companies must be held responsible.
“It’s time to target the source of this crisis. We’ve fought employers, we’ve lobbied governments, but it’s the companies who make these benchtops who need to be held to account for the heartache they’ve caused all across Australia,” Mr Singh said.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: August 3, 2022.