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BHP worker wins record compensation for asbestos exposure

A former BHP worker has won a record $2.2 million payout after it was found his employer was responsible for his asbestos-related disease.

Steven Dunning, 54, is suffering from terminal mesothelioma as a consequence of the asbestos dust he inhaled while working on BHP's Newcastle steelworks as a 19-year-old in the early 1980s.

In late July, the Dust and Diseases Tribunal found that BHP had negligently exposed Mr Dunning to the asbestos, ordering it to pay him $2.2 million in damages.

This is the highest amount of damages awarded in the tribunal's history and marks the first time BHP has been ordered to pay compensation to a former employee of the Newcastle steelworks with incurable mesothelioma.

During the course of the six-week trial, it emerged that BHP knew there was no safe level of exposure to asbestos. Despite this, the court heard that the company continued to use the substance until 1985. 

Lawyers for Mr. Dunning said that BHP had fought the case for almost four years, arguing every available legal point.

His wife said she was disgusted by the fervour and determination with which BHP pursued the matter through the courts, rather than "standing up and accepting responsibility for their actions".

"It was disgusting. They just drag it out and drag it out until the poor victim has passed away, all so they can get off a little bit lighter.

"Do you think any of those executives calling the shots are getting sick? Absolutely not. I just really want to urge anyone else who’s sick from asbestos to come forward. Hopefully now BHP will be more accountable."

CWU members who believes they have been exposed to asbestos in the course of work should contact their state branch for advice.

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