Last month we wrote about the dangers of silica dust and silicosis. Since then WorkSafe have issued a safety alert for stonemasons working in the bench top manufacturing industry. This is after a high number of silicosis cases have been confirmed in Australia – 99 confirmed cases in people working with engineered stone bench tops. Silicosis is an irreversible and progressive disease that causes fibrosis of the lungs from inhaling respirable crystalline silica (RCS). Many of the Australian cases have been consistent with accelerated silicosis – a form of the disease which develops over a short period of time, between 5 and 10 years.
Why Bench Tops?
Engineered stone bench tops are an increasingly popular choice for kitchens and bathrooms. They are made by mixing finely crushed rock with a polymeric resin and then moulded into slaps and cured. The silica content of this engineered stone is approx 90% silica — much higher than natural stone. The exposure comes when someone cuts, grinds, sands or polishes the material during the manufacture and installation.
Advice From WorkSafe
Before starting work using engineered stone, businesses must complete a risk assessment and review their controls. It is important to consider eliminating uncontrolled dry cutting, grinding or polishing of engineered stone. If this is not possible than exposure heeds to be minimised. Read their full advice here.
To monitor the exposure we can help organise a visit from on Occupational Hygienist. You can also engage our nursing team to carry out health monitoring of your employees. To contact our team email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0800 487 439.
If you have concerns about accelerated silicosis WorkSafe have a contact form on their website here, as well as links all their guidance documentation.