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Workers Are Becoming Seriously Ill And Dying From Cutting Kitchen Countertops

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA (December 19, 2022) – Many workers are becoming seriously ill or dying after inhaling silica created from cutting, grinding and polishing countertops. 

A material known as “artificial stone” or “engineered stone” is commonly used to create kitchen and bathroom countertops. But this material typically comes in giant slabs that must be cut down to size. 

When workers cut artificial stone the dust from that process ends up going everywhere. Inevitably, workers inhale a large amount of silica dust byproduct. 

Jose Martinez worked as a cutter and polisher for a countertop company that sold slabs of engineered stone. He shared his story with NPR

Jose was diagnosed with silicosis, which is a progressive lung disease. There is no treatment for silicosis with the exception of getting a lung transplant. He’s become so weak that he can no longer play soccer or run with his kids. 

Two of his coworkers in their 30’s died last year after being diagnosed with silicosis. The Centers for Disease Control, released a new report detailing 18 cases of people who primarily cut engineered stone and became ill. 

Most of the affected workers weer Hispanic and lived primarily in California, Colorado, Texas and Washington. One report from Australia found that at least 12% of workers who cut or polished engineered stone developed silicosis. 

In 2016, OSHA issued new workplace limits on how much silica dust can be in the air at worksites. 

Liability For Silicosis Caused By Silica Dust Exposure

Millions of workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica dust every year. Exposure can occur in a variety of fields including construction, mining, oil and gas extraction and stone countertop fabrication. Consistent exposure to silica dust for 7 – 10 years often leads to Silicosis. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Silicosis, an irreversible but preventable lung disease, is caused by inhalation of respirable silica dust. Work exposures to silica dust also cause other serious diseases, including lung cancer.” There are a number of steps that companies can take to protect workers from silica dusk.

  • Companies that manufacture kitchen and bathroom countertops can use less silica to create their products. 
  • Countertop fabrication companies can use vacuum and filtration systems to remove dust from the air. 
  • Companies can enforce OSHA regulations which limit the amount of silica dust that is permissible for workers to be exposed to. 

When a worker is injured on the job, they or their family will typically have recourse through a worker’s compensation claim. Worker’s compensation is a no-fault insurance scheme which allows workers to recover if they were injured on the job. There is no need for an injured worker to demonstrate fault in order to receive benefits. Depending on the facts of any case, an injured worker or their family may be able to seek aid through a third party liability claim. A third party liability claim may be possible when an entity separate from a worker’s employer contributed to a worker’s injury. 

The company that manufactured artificial stone for bathroom or kitchen countertops could potentially be liable if workers become ill from inhaling silica dust. Companies have a legal obligation to create products that are reasonably safe. They must also warn about the non-obvious dangers  associated with the use of their products. When a company fails to warn about the dangers of their products this could form the basis of a negligence claim. The fact of the matter is that countertop manufacturers have long known about the dangers of silica dust and there have been lawsuits related to silica dust exposure dating back to the 1930’s. There are a number of steps that should be taken after a worker is diagnosed with Silicosis. 

  • Work records should be preserved. 
  • Medical records should be examined. 
  • An experienced personal injury attorney should be consulted. 

It can be difficult to know where to begin after developing Silicosis. This disease will often prevent workers from continuing to perform any type of physical labor. This affects their ability to provide for themselves and their family. Any person that has been harmed after inhaling silica dust may have legal recourse through a bodily injury claim. Damage in a civil claim can help cover lost wages, medical bills and pain and suffering. A personal injury attorney can examine all of the unique facts of your case free of cost and let you know what your legal options are. 

Getting Legal Help After Being Diagnosed With Silicosis

We at the Carrillo Law Firm, LLP extend our best wishes to all of the workers who have developed Silicosis after being exposed to silica dusk. It is our sincere hope that OSHA will implement stricter safety standards to eliminate this preventable illness. Safety should always be the number one priority for every company. But far too often, companies that cut countertops or manufacture artificial stone are more concerned about making a profit than making safe products. 

Have you or someone that you care about been diagnosed with Silicosis or lung cancer after being exposed to silica dust? There are a number of laws designed to protect your rights. Our team of personal injury attorneys are here to help in any way that we can. We care deeply that workers are aware of their rights and that those rights are being protected. Whether you just have legal questions or need any type of assistance we are here for you. You can always reach out to us anytime at 626-799-9375. Se habla español. 

Author

MICHAEL S. CARRILLO, Partner

Michael works on high-profile cases that have garnered national media attention. His practice today focuses on child sexual abuse cases, police misconduct cases, catastrophic injuries and other wrongful death matters. He is a passionate advocate for his clients including the countless child sexual abuse victims he currently represents.