Silica safety reminder ahead of engineered stone ban

WorkSafe is reminding Victorian employers that strict controls to protect workers from deadly crystalline silica dust will be enforced in the lead up to the nationwide engineered stone ban later this year.

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From 1 July 2024, employers will no longer be permitted to carry out work involving the manufacturing, supply, processing or installation of engineered stone.

Victoria already has the strongest regulatory regime in Australia with respect to the use of engineered stone, including a ban on the uncontrolled dry-cutting of engineered stone and requiring businesses undertaking engineered stone processes to hold a licence.

WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety Narelle Beer said employers must continue to comply with the state's strict engineered stone requirements ahead of the ban.

"Hundreds of Victorian tradies have already been diagnosed with silicosis – a debilitating and potentially deadly disease that can devastate young workers and their families," Dr Beer said.

"Banning the use of engineered stone will save lives – but we don't want to see workers put at additional risk as employers rush to finish work and process engineered stone ahead of the national ban."

"It's crucial that employers continue to protect themselves and their workers and WorkSafe will continue to champion this issue as the engineered stone ban approaches."

A WorkSafe campaign raising awareness of the ban on engineered stone has begun, including advertising in regional and culturally diverse publications, multi-lingual social media messaging and communications to licence holders.

Tragically, WorkSafe has now received 669 silicosis-related compensation claims following a positive diagnosis.

Workers in the industry are able to have a comprehensive health assessment at the Alfred Occupational Respiratory Clinic, offered in partnership between WorkSafe and The Alfred.

The clinic is Australia's only dedicated public hospital occupational respiratory clinic and provides a range of diagnostic tools and specialist services not readily available to GPs, increasing the chance of early identification while saving time and reducing stress for workers and their families.

The Victorian Government is working on enacting the prohibition of engineered stone through amendments needed to Victoria's occupational health and safety laws from 1 July.

Some exceptions will be made for the removal, repair, minor modification, and disposal of engineered stone products installed prior to the ban (legacy products), as well as appropriate exceptions for engineered stone products with trace levels of crystalline silica (under 1 per cent).

A customs ban will also provide an additional layer of enforcement and deterrence at the border.

Current Victorian engineered stone licences will remain valid as work continues to raise awareness of the ban and its impact on the stonemason industry before it comes into effect.

More information on crystalline silica