New regulations to help protect workers from exposure to silica dust will require Victorian Businesses working with engineered stone.
A media release issued by WorkSafe Victoria states that from May next year, the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Crystalline Silica) Regulations 2021 also introduce new duties for businesses across a range of industries that work with other materials containing silica – including quarrying, construction and tunnelling.
The regulations will also extend the ban, first made in 2019, on uncontrolled dry-cutting, grinding and polishing of engineered stone and prohibit the use of compressed air for cleaning and untreated water to suppress dust.
Engineered stone is commonly used for kitchen and bathroom benchtops. When it is cut, ground or polished workers may be exposed to respirable silica dust, which can cause deadly lung and respiratory diseases – including silicosis.
Silicosis is caused by breathing in tiny silica particles, which can cause incurable scarring of the lungs. In severe cases, it can be fatal, or patients may need a lung transplant.
WorkSafe CEO Colin Radford said licensing the use of engineered stone would ensure the necessary safety measures were in place to protect workers.
“Silicosis is a serious disease that can strike down young workers with devastating consequences for them and their families,” Mr Radford said.
“This year alone, WorkSafe has accepted 59 claims from workers who have developed silica related disease as a result of workplace exposure and sadly, four people have lost their lives. This is unacceptable.
“This licence scheme, together with a permanent ban on uncontrolled dry cutting of engineered stone, will help prevent more workers suffering due to silica exposure.”
Licence holders must comply with new duties, including providing:
- Safety training and instruction for workers, as well as information to job applicants
- Health and atmosphere monitoring reports to Worksafe Victoria
- Departing employees with a record of their work with engineered stone and advice about regular health assessments
Engineered stone suppliers will only be able to supply licenced businesses and must keep records.
From 15 May 2022, businesses working with other materials containing silica must identify and document any high-risk silica work and the measures used to control those risks, and provide safety training and instruction to employees and information to job applicants who may engage in this work.
The regulations include infringements or court-imposed fines of between 1.2 and 100 penalty units for an individual or six and 500 penalty units for a body corporate.
Licence applications for working with engineered stone are now open and can be lodged online at www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/engineered-stone-licence