Uncontrolled dry cutting of engineered stone banned in Vic

Friday, 06 September, 2019

Uncontrolled dry cutting of engineered stone banned in Vic

Victoria has banned uncontrolled dry cutting of engineered stone to help protect workers from exposure to crystalline silica dust. The ban, which came into effect on 20 August, prevents workers from using power tools to cut, grind or abrasively polish engineered stone unless on-tool water suppression or dust extraction devices are in place and respiratory protection is used. In cases where water suppression or dust extraction is not reasonably practicable, local exhaust ventilation must be used.

It comes as part of a larger plan to tackle silicosis, which includes free health screenings for Victoria’s 1400 stonemasons and a ‘compliance blitz’ of high-risk workplaces, according to the state’s government. Already, 312 stonemasons have registered for the free health screening, with 232 having started the assessment process and 73 of the 98 workers who completed the initial screening being referred for secondary screening. To date, 20 workers compensation claims have been filed following positive diagnoses received during the screening processes.

People working as stonemasons face a higher risk of silica exposure due to the cutting and polishing of artificial stone benchtops — which can be up to 95% crystaline silica, the Victorian Government warned. However, they expect the ban will reduce workers’ silica exposure, as well as their likelihood of developing silicosis. Education seminars for stonemasons and health professionals are taking place across the state and GPs and medical specialists have attended a summit in Melbourne to discuss the action needed to combat the disease.

The government also plans to develop a new compliance code for businesses working with engineered stone and an awareness campaign to highlight the risks. In the meantime, they intend to continue campaigning to reduce the Australian silica workplace exposure standard to 0.02 mg/m3 over an 8-hour day.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Georgiy

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