NSCA Foundation

Qld to release code of practice to prevent silica exposure

Monday, 23 September, 2019

Qld to release code of practice to prevent silica exposure

Queensland’s stone benchtop industry will soon be subject to a new code of practice, according to the state’s Industrial Relations Minister, Grace Grace. The ‘Managing Respirable Crystalline Silica Dust Exposure in the Stone Benchtop Industry Code of Practice 2019’ will come into effect on 31 October this year and apply to all fabrication and processing — including installation, maintenance and removal — of engineered and natural stone benchtops. It includes methods for eliminating respirable crystalline silica dust during mechanical processing, such as water suppression and on-tool dust extraction; use of appropriate respirable protective equipment; air and health monitoring to ensure dust controls are effective and that there are no changes to workers’ health; safe onsite installation methods; and worker consultation, training, education, instruction and supervision.

Grace said the code “sets minimum and enforceable standards to ensure silica dust is managed safely and workers are protected”. The code was developed with 23 organisations, including industry associations, unions, medical and technical experts and stone fabrication businesses, and has received broad-ranging support, the Queensland Government said. “Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Palaszczuk government issuing the public warning about working with engineered stone and banning dry cutting,” Grace said on 18 September. “Since this time there has been significant progress made in tackling this issue; however, sadly one worker has died as a result of silica exposure. In total, 169 workers from the engineered stone industry have had compensation claims for silicosis accepted by WorkCover Queensland. Of those, 24 are for a diagnosis of progressive massive fibrosis.”

Since last year’s announcement, WorkCover Queensland has funded initial health screenings for more than 1000 current and former engineered stone workers and begun monitoring occupational dust diseases — including silicosis — via the Queensland Health Notifiable Dust Lung Disease Register, which opened on 1 July 2019. The state government has also partnered with other health and government specialists to develop clinical guidelines that help medical practitioners assess and manage workers exposed to silica.

“On the compliance front, we have completed 148 audits of all known engineered stone fabrication workplaces and 598 notices have been issued for offences such as dry cutting, poor dust control and improper protective equipment. Sixteen infringement notices have also been issued with fines totalling $54,000,” Grace said. State-wide information sessions promoting the code and raising awareness of silica-associated health risks will be run by the state government and the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists throughout October Safe Work Month. “This code of practice will be a continuation of the work being done in ushering in a safer chapter in the history for the stone benchtop industry,” Grace said.

Grace indicated that the government will now work on a silica dust code of practice for the construction industry.

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

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