SafeWork NSW is adopting a new industry safety standard as part of its sustained regulatory efforts to address silicosis.
The national Code of Practice – Managing the risks of respirable crystalline silica from engineered stone in the workplace came into force in NSW on 25 February 2022.
Minister for Small Business and Minister for Fair Trading Eleni Petinos said SafeWork has been focused on this issue for a number of years and the new code plays an important role in stopping workers developing silicosis.
“Silicosis is a serious and debilitating lung disease that can be fatal,” Ms Petinos said.
“The Occupational Lung Diseases in Australia 2006-2019 Report highlighted a substantial increase in engineered stone workers contracting silicosis but NSW plans to reverse this trend and prevent workers getting sick from breathing in the harmful dust on the job.
“With regulatory reform and compliance activities supporting the adoption of the Code, employers and workers will now have a clear understanding of how to safely cut, grind, polish and clean up when working with engineered stone products.”
The code also provides guidance on regular air and health monitoring for workers, including lung screening.
SafeWork inspectors recently completed more than 900 compliance visits to 250 engineered stone businesses in NSW as part of a broader five-year program targeting silica exposure across engineered stone fabrication workplaces, construction and infrastructure worksites.
“We are seeing improvements in compliance and this code will help to support businesses to understand their duties and implement safe work practices to protect workers,” Ms Petinos said.
“It’s incredibly important for businesses and their workers to know what hazards exist in their workplace and how to eliminate or manage them.
“It is important to always use adequate ventilation, wet cutting, on-tool dust extraction when polishing and grinding. Wear fit-tested face masks, and clean-up using water and class M or H vacuum cleaners,” Ms Petinos said.
Businesses and workers can attend an educational webinar about the new code and access easy to use resources, including translated guidance materials.