Even two decades ago, Steve Terpstra knew the dangers of fine silica particles that have been debilitating tradespeople across Australia. Whilst around the world rates of the disease have fallen, here in Australia there has been a concerning spike among tradesmen, culminating in at least one death.
Terpstra, from Western Australia, was running a concrete cutting business with 10 employees in the late 1990s when he first became concerned about exposing his staff to dangerous crystalline silica and carbon dioxide fumes.
He was willing to forego his $1.5 million annual income if the dangers weren’t mitigated, but no-one was listening. Terpstra followed the Health and Safety Act to complete an assessment of any hazards employees were exposed to and was terrified about his findings.
“Even though it was industry practise I knew we were non-compliant and that scared me,” he said, according to News.com.au.
Before he closed his business, Terpstra retreated to his garage to focus on inventing a device to protect tradies from this deadly silica dust. Terpstra invested $1 million into the creation of his contraption, the “Guarda Edge Power Cutter”, which relies on an intricate combination of water and a vacuum to remove fine particles from the air during cutting. The water acts to control the dust being sprayed into the air while the vacuum collects the remaining particles.
“People are dying,” Terpstra told the news source. “If there had have been policing and maintaining of the standard, then it wouldn’t be the issue it is today.”
“There’s people out there doing the wrong thing and cutting corners and that’s where I think it comes back to the government,” Terpstra said.
Craig Penty, a managing director in the industry, said it had been a long and arduous journey to get the industry to adopt the potentially life-saving invention.
“Steve has had big challenges over the years firstly to get people to take silica dust seriously,” Pentry told the news source. “It’s really been the spike in cases over the last 12 months that has finally got everyone jumping into action”.
If you or a loved one have been a victim of dust disease, the team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers can help you determine your rights and get you the compensation you deserve.