Safety Concerns

Safety First: Concerns with Stone Benchtops

This is an urgent safety warning for anyone within the stone benchtop fabrication industry: uncontrolled dry cutting of engineered stone is prohibited.

There are significant health risks caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) for workers in engineered stone benchtop fabrication. Companies engaged in ‘uncontrolled dry cutting’ of this product must stop immediately according to Worksafe QLD.

Workers may be exposed to crystalline silica during the installation process while:

  • cutting,
  • grinding,
  • sanding and
  • polishing

Generally, exposure to RCS occurs during fabrication rather than installation.

Avoidance

Workers installing stone benchtops which have been completely fabricated in a workshop with no additional cutting or fabrication required on site should have minimal exposure to RCS. Where no cutting, grinding, sanding or polishing of the benchtop occurs during installation then no RCS should be released.

Similarly, stone benchtops which have already been installed do not represent a risk to health unless they are cut, ground, sanded or polished.

Safety concern

Accumulated exposure to RCS can cause very serious and debilitating health effects, including silicosis. Silicosis is an aggressive form of pneumoconiosis – a debilitating respiratory disease – which can be fatal.

Origin of decision

The safety alert was issued after recent compliance audits of ten engineered stone benchtop fabricators uncovered disturbing and unsafe work practices – including:

  • uncontrolled dry cutting of stone,
  • poor ventilation of work areas and
  • a lack of respiratory protective equipment.

Health monitoring of workers at these sites returned multiple positive silicosis diagnoses.

Are you affected?

All workers in the industry, or those who have previously worked in the industry, are encouraged to undergo urgent health screening. WorkCover Queensland will fund the immediate health screening for workers, or former workers, who have been exposed to silica from engineered stone over an extended period of time.

A state-wide compliance campaign is now underway and by the end of the year all engineered stone benchtop fabrication workshops in Queensland will have been audited.

A comprehensive guide for industry and workers, and the safety alert are published to worksafe.qld.gov.au.

More information

Any worker seeking information about safe work practices or health screenings, should contact 1300 362 128 or visit www.worksafe.qld.gov.au.

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