Silica concerns prompt Qld audit

Monday, 03 December, 2018

Silica concerns prompt Qld audit

An urgent audit of engineered stone benchtop fabricators is underway in Queensland.

Safety inspectors will target around 140 workplaces before the Christmas break.

Benchtops made from engineered stone have very high crystalline silica content (up to 95%). In mid-September WorkCover Queensland issued a safety alert to highlight the significant health risks for those in the industry caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS).

Workers can be exposed to RCS while cutting, grinding, sanding and polishing stone benchtops and during the installation process.

The audit is focusing on these key areas to minimise exposure to RCS:

  • Prohibition of uncontrolled dry cutting.
  • Improving dust control to lower occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica.
  • Minimising the remaining risk though effective use of respiratory protective equipment.
  • Health monitoring for workers at significant risk.
  • Providing information and consulting with workers.

As of the end of November, 135 workplaces across Queensland have been audited. So far, 50 prohibition notices have been issued for unsafe activities, including uncontrolled dry cutting and other work exposing workers to RCS. More than 500 improvement notices have been issued for issues associated with health monitoring, provision of and fit testing of respiratory protective equipment, inadequate dust control, and provision of information and consultation with workers.

WorkCover will continue to work with all businesses in the industry to ensure adequate dust controls and respiratory protective equipment are in place and all other work health and safety obligations are being met. It is also working on a code of practice and explicit regulations to set minimum safety standards for this industry.

Workers’ health remains an absolute priority so WorkCover is working closely with medical specialists to streamline disease identification and treatment options to support the wellbeing of these workers and their families.

It is absolutely imperative those in the industry, or those who have previously worked in it, undergo urgent health screening.

WorkCover Queensland is funding the initial immediate health screening for workers, or former workers, who have been exposed to silica from engineered stone over an extended period of time.

To confirm eligibility and arrange a health screening, workers or employers can call WorkCover Queensland on 3006 8365.

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