New safety taskforce to protect stone industry workers from silica dust

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Photo: hkgoldstein0, Pixabay

The NSW Government has established a new safety taskforce to protect workers in the manufactured stone industry from lung ailments.

The Manufactured Stone Industry Taskforce is being led by SafeWork NSW and involves industry, peak bodies, medical professionals, unions and other government agencies including the Lung Foundation, Australian Industry Group, and Unions NSW. The group will review safety standards and consider safety improvements to further protect workers from crystalline silica dust exposure.

SafeWork NSW Acting Executive Director, Specialist Services, Ron Keelty said SafeWork NSW is committed to protecting workers from the dangers of exposure to chemicals in the workplace.

“The manufactured stone industry involves newer engineered stone products such as Caesarstone for bathroom and kitchen benchtops,” said Mr. Keelty.

“It also includes bricks, roof tiles and concrete products that contain crystalline silica.

“When disturbed by cutting, sanding, blasting or grinding, crystalline silica dust is released which can get into a worker’s lungs and lead to the lung disease silicosis.”

Mr. Keelty said an average of nine cases of silicosis are reported yearly in NSW since 2011/12.

“This is a disease that is 100 percent preventable if the correct safety measures are in place,” he said.

“This involves having adequate ventilation systems, installing dust capture systems on portable tools, wetting down stone, providing personal protective equipment such as masks and respirators, and not using compressed air to remove or clean up settled dust.

“Businesses should also conduct regular air monitoring to confirm that crystalline silica dust is not exceeding the Australian Workplace Exposure Standard and provide health monitoring to workers.

“SafeWork NSW is committed to driving down work-related injuries and illnesses, and through the Taskforce, we aim to improve safety standards and workplace practices as well as potentially strengthen hazardous chemical safeguards.”

The Taskforce will run from July 2018 to 30 June 2019.

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