New regulations introduced by the Andrews Labor Government banning the uncontrolled dry cutting of engineered stone to protect Victorian workers from exposure to deadly silica dust – are now in effect.
Member for Member for Northern Victoria, Mark Gepp MP welcomes the new regulations as a positive step in protecting workers and ensuring that employers are providing a safer workplace.
The tough new regulations will dramatically cut workers’ exposure to crystalline silica and reduce their likelihood of developing silicosis.
Employers must now ensure power tools are not used to cut, grind or abrasively polish engineered stone unless on-tool water suppression or dust extraction devices are in place. Appropriate respiratory protection is also used.
Silica dust is a hazardous substance impacting workers in construction, farming, mining and quarrying. It can also affect farmers, road builders and art workers (including jewellers, glaziers, teachers and cleaners).
However, Stonemasons are at a higher risk of exposure – due to the cutting and polishing of artificial stone benchtops which contain high concentrations of silica.
Silicosis is a proclaimed disease, meaning workers or dependents of a worker with silicosis are entitled to compensation without having to prove that work contributed to the disease.
Silica dust is 100 times smaller than a grain of sand, and excessive exposure to it can lead to silicosis, lung cancer, Silicotuberculosis (silicosis sufferers are at a higher risk of developing tuberculosis) chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease.
Worksafe received 55 claims for silica-related conditions in the 2018-19 financial year and tragically, 15 workers have died from the disease since 1985.
The Labor Government has already announced an action plan to stamp out this debilitating disease which is striking tradies in their prime. The plan includes free health screenings for Victoria’s 1400 stonemasons and a compliance blitz of high-risk work places.
A total of 312 stonemasons have now registered for the free health screening. Of those, 232 have commenced the assessment process and 73 of the 98 workers to complete their initial screening have been referred for secondary screening.
There have been 20 claims so far as a result of positive diagnoses from the screening process.
The Government’s plan also includes a tough new compliance code for businesses working with engineered stone and an awareness campaign to highlight the risks. The Government will continue to campaign nationally to reduce the Australian silica workplace exposure standard to 0.02 mg/m3 over an eight-hour day.
For more information on Silica dust, visit:
For events and workshops during Health and Safety Month, visit: www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/health-and-safety-month
Quote attributable to Mark Gepp MP, Member for Northern Victoria
“Our ban on dry cutting is helping protect workers from this silent killer.”
“Work safety is everyone’s responsibility. We want every Victorian worker to get home safe to their families.”
“Ahead of WorkSafe’s Health and Safety month in October, I want to encourage all workers to wear protective clothing and respiratory protection, no matter how uncool or uncomfortable you feel – your health is far more important.”
Quotes attributable to Minister for Workplace Safety Jill Hennessy
“Our tough new regulations are now in effect and I encourage all stonemasons who have been exposed to silica dust to register for a free health assessment as soon as possible.”