Western Australia’s Commission of Occupational Safety and Health has been advised by the Queensland Government on the serious risks to workers’ health posed by exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) and the need for urgent action.
There is a high level of silica in engineered stone which can be breathed in as dust when cut dry.
Reports from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland say there has been a number of confirmed cases of silicosis for workers in this industry.
Silicosis is a debilitating respiratory disease which causes scar tissue in the lung resulting in loss of lung function and can be fatal.
New cases occurring in Australian industries can be due to long term high exposure or acute uncontrolled exposure above the current exposure limit.
Exposure may be adequately controlled by the use of wet methods to suppress dusts, along with local exhaust ventilation, use of positive pressure cabins, segregation of workers from areas of high concentration, in combination with PPE being a P2 efficient half face respirator.
Training in the use and limitations of respiratory PPE, a clean shaven policy and face fit testing are essential.
There is no risk for uses of engineered stone benchtops, such as to homeowners, as the risk only arises when the product is cut, grinded or polished while dry.
An excellent guide on the hazard is available here.
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