Queensland has announced that it will introduce a Code of Practice for the stone benchtop industry.
The code attempts to reduce and eradicate silicosis in Queensland, caused by the fabrication and processing of engineered and natural stone benchtops.
The code, Managing respirable crystalline silica dust exposure in the stone benchtop industry code of practice 2019, will commence on 31 October, 2019.
“It sets minimum and enforceable standards to ensure silica dust is managed safely and workers are protected,” said Industrial Relations Minister, Grace Grace.
The Code will focus on respirable crystalline silica dust during mechanical processing, the use of respirable protective equipment, monitoring, safe installation, and worker consultation.
Developed in collaboration with industry associations, unions, medical and technical experts, and stone fabrication businesses, the announcement of the Code is one year since the first alert was raised in Queensland of the dangers of silica dust.
“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,” said Grace.
Queensland has enforced safety standards already by completing 148 audits of all known engineered stone fabrication workplaces, and issued 598 notices for offences including dry cutting, poor dust control, and improper protective equipment. Infringement notices equalling fines of $54,000 has been issued.
Industry bodies recognised the need to address silicosis, and welcomed the code.
“This code provides a number of practical measures to assist the stone benchtop industry in improving their practices and protecting workers,” said Master Builders Queensland safety and environment manager, Melanie Roberts.