A ban on uncontrolled dry cutting of engineered stone has come into effect across Victoria to better protect workers from exposure to deadly silica dust.
Occupational health and safety regulations now prohibit the cutting, grinding and abrasive polishing of engineered stone with power tools, unless on-tool water suppression or dust extraction devices are in place and respiratory protection equipment is used. If it is not reasonably practicable to use water suppression or dust extraction, local exhaust ventilation must be used.
Engineered stone, sometimes also called reconstituted stone, can contain up to 95 per cent crystalline silica, which is a hazardous substance that can lead to serious health effects if it is inhaled. When engineered stone products are processed, very fine dust containing respirable crystalline silica is released into the air. People working with these products, such as stonemasons, are at high risk of being exposed to the dust if it is not controlled. Exposure can result in silicosis, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, lung cancer, kidney damage and scleroderma. The new regulations will dramatically cut workers’ exposure to crystalline silica, and therefore reduce their likelihood of developing silicosis.
Employers and people that are self-employed, or are managing or control a workplace, are responsible for making sure the required measures are in place and equipment is supplied.