It will apply to all fabrication or processing, including installation, maintenance and removal, of engineered and natural stone benchtops. Minimum, enforceable standards will aim to ensure silica dust is managed safely and workers are protected.
The managing respirable crystalline silica dust exposure in the stone benchtop industry code of practice 2019 will be published on 31 October, the state’s industrial relations minister, Grace Grace, announced.
This code goes a long way to ensuring long-term behavioural change in an industry that, until recently, has not put worker safety first
Silicosis was more common in Australia in the 1940s to 1960s, particularly in construction and demolition workers. Growing awareness of the disease and the importance of reducing exposure to dust – for instance, the wearing of masks, wetting the dust and other safe work practices – did reduce the number of cases. However, there has been a worrying resurgence of incidents recently.
The code focuses on:
- dust control methods to eliminate respirable crystalline silica dust during mechanical processing, including water suppression and on tool dust extraction;
- the use of respirable protective equipment to safeguard workers;
- air and health monitoring to check dust controls are effective and there are no changes to workers’ health;
- safe onsite installation methods, including installation in homes; and
- worker consultation, as well as training, education, instruction and supervision.
The code was developed with 23 organisations, including industry associations, trade unions, medical and technical experts, and stone fabrication businesses, and has received broad-ranging support.
“This code goes a long way to ensuring long-term behavioural change in an industry that, until recently, has not put worker safety first,” Grace said.
“[It] will be a continuation of the work being done in ushering in a safer chapter in the history for the stone benchtop industry.”
The minister confirmed that audits of engineered stone fabrication workplaces would ensure the code was being adhered to. She also announced work would start on a similar code of practice for the construction industry.