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Fears for Wodonga foundry employees after workers diagnosed with terminal illness

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Media Release

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Lawyers for a young Wodonga man diagnosed with a terminal illness related to his work at a local steel foundry fear his colleagues could soon develop similar symptoms.

Slater and Gordon workcover lawyer Meghan Hoare called on authorities to urgently perform a full safety audit at Wodonga’s  Bradken Foundry after her client, 44-year old Haydn Dexter, was diagnosed with silicosis in February.

Silicosis is a terminal illness affecting the respiratory system and is caused by the inhalation of fine silica sand particles used in the steel moulding process.

“We are aware of other cases of silicosis involving former employees at the same foundry and we know there is another more recent case involving one of Haydn’s colleagues who has developed respiratory problems,” Ms Hoare said.

“Since his workmates became aware of his condition, Haydn has been contacted by others who have worked at the foundry who have been diagnosed with silicosis.”

Silicosis is on a list of proclaimed diseases under the Accident Compensation Act, meaning that workers exposed to silica dust and who later develop silicosis do not need to provide any further evidence to prove their employment was the cause of their illness.

“Sadly for Haydn, he ended up in an occupation that regularly put him in contact with this substance and he is one of the unfortunate ones who has contracted this terminal disease,” Ms Hoare said.

“It’s gravely concerning to think that the work practices that have contributed to Haydn’s illness could also lead to others being diagnosed.”88048904

Mr Dexter has worked for Bradken Foundry for 24 years, including 19 at the Wodonga foundry, with 12 years in a production line making sand moulds and seven years in foundries where the steel is cast.

“Last year Haydn developed a persistent cough and thought it was some kind of less serious respiratory condition but when he told his physician about the nature of his work, they ordered tests and diagnosed silicosis,” Ms Hoare said.

 “The fear is that other Bradken employees will also develop the condition and, unless there is an immediate audit of work practices at Bradken’s six Australian foundries, workers will continue to operate in an unsafe environment and further exposures will occur.”

Ms Hoare is progressing a WorkCover claim for Mr Dexter, who was referred by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.