In recent years, there has been a growing popularity of engineered stone used in bathroom and kichen installation. However, this stone comprises of very high silica content in comparison to traditional stone benchtops, such as granite and marble.
Unfortunately, stonemasons who have or continue to handle and cut engineered stone through dry cutting methods are being exposed to silica as the dust particles circulate in the air throughout the process. This dust is lethal when breathed in and consequently we are seeing young stonemasons developing silicosis due to the inhalation of very high levels of silica dust.
Silicosis is a severe and progressive disease for which there is no cure. In addition to silicosis we are seeing stonemasons develop autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma, also linked to silica dust.
Changes to law
In late 2018, the Queensland Government banned dry cutting of engineered stone in attempt to curb the crisis. As of August 20, 2019, the Victorian government has finally introduced similar measures.
Under the new measures in Victoria an employer, self-employed person or person who manages a workplace must ensure engineered stone is not cut, ground or polished by a power tool unless the tool:
- has an integrated water delivery system that supplies a continuous feed of water (on-tool water suppression), or
- is fitted with on-tool extraction attached to a HEPA filtered dust class H vacuum cleaner (or similar system that captures the dust generated).
People cutting, grinding or polishing engineered stone with a power tool must also be provided with respiratory protective equipment that complies with AS/NZS 1716 – Respiratory protective devices.
It’s very important that the people in charge ensure that the safety equipment is properly designed, installed, used and maintained so they are effective at reducing exposure to crystalline silica dust. Training must also be provided to people using the equipment to ensure to its effectiveness.
Shine Lawyers - we're here to help
Unfortunately, these laws do not help those who’ve already been affected by unsafe stone cutting. Shine Lawyers are experts in dust disease related compensation including silicosis. If you or a loved one is suffering from a dust-related disease, please contact our team today to find out if you have a claim and how we may assist you in seeking compensation. If you have silicosis you can register your exposure to silica dust here.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: October 22, 2019.