Scholar recognised for work to reduce silicosis in the artificial stone industry

Christian Madden receives his award from Jackii Shepherd, Director, Safe Work Australia

Western Sydney University graduate Christian Madden has been awarded the Safe Work Australia award for Scholars for Worker Protection – Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists Conference Award in recognition of his research into worker exposure to crystalline silica during the processing of artificial stone.

The Bachelor of Natural Science (Environment and Health) student was the lead investigator and author of a recent conference paper addressing industry concerns relating to cases of accelerated silicosis associated with the processing of artificial stone.

The study, undertaken in conjunction with Test Safe Chemical Analysis Branch (Safe Work NSW) and a leading distributor and producer of artificial stone products based in NSW, initially aimed to measure worker exposure to potentially hazardous respirable crystalline silica dust generated while using wet processing methods on artificial stone.

“Measuring the exposure risk to respirable crystalline silica is the vital first step that must be taken to successfully implement controls for greater worker protection,” said the mid North Coast resident.

“The results from our research and other researchers become part of a data bank that can assist in moving forward to halt the abrupt rise in reported cases of silicosis in Australia associated with the artificial stone benchtop industry.”

Christian’s work with his research client in 2018 was part of his Environmental Health Field Project unit investigating silica exposure. The initial research captured interest from Safe Work NSW and a collaborative study was developed and undertaken in 2019. This work included not only respirable dust exposures but also monitoring volatile chemicals and biological assessment (urine) for worker exposure to solvents.

The project is ongoing with research partners in 2020 to further characterise worker exposure to industry hazards, including the toxicology of artificial stone dust. Christian is looking to undertake postgraduate studies in the field of occupational hygiene.

Lecturer Dr Maggie Davidson from the University’s School of Science said: “I’m very excited to watch Christian’s knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm in the field of occupational hygiene grow, and how he has brought his extensive practical experience in engineering and construction into creating safer and healthier workplaces.”

“Work-integrated learning projects such as Christian’s, is an important part of gaining a degree and further developing professional project management skills.”


4 February 2020

Ali Sardyga, Media Officer