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Regulations Banning Dry Stone Cutting Now In Effect

02 September 2019

New regulations introduced by the Andrews Labor Government banning the uncontrolled dry cutting of engineered stone to protect Victorian workers from exposure to deadly silica dust are now in effect.

Employers must now ensure power tools are not used to cut, grind or abrasively polish engineered stone unless on-tool water suppression or dust extraction devices are in place and respiratory protection is used.

Silica dust is a hazardous substance impacting workers in construction, mining and quarrying.

Stonemasons are at higher risk of exposure due to the cutting and polishing of artificial stone benchtops which contain high concentrations of silica.

The tough new regulations will dramatically cut workers’ exposure to crystalline silica and reduce their likelihood of developing silicosis.

Silicosis is a proclaimed disease, meaning workers or dependents of a worker with silicosis are entitled to compensation without having to prove that work contributed to the disease.

WorkSafe received 55 claims for silica-related conditions in the 2018-19 financial year and 15 workers have died from the disease since 1985.

The Labor Government has already announced an action plan to stamp out this debilitating disease which is striking tradies in their prime. The plan includes free health screenings for Victoria’s 1400 stonemasons and a compliance blitz of high-risk work places.

A total of 312 stonemasons have now registered for the free health screening. Of those, 232 have commenced the assessment process and 73 of the 98 workers to complete their initial screening have been referred for secondary screening. Tragically, there have been 20 claims as a result of positive diagnoses from the screening process.

Education seminars for stonemasons and health professionals are taking place across the state, and GPs and medical specialists have gathered at a summit at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre to discuss the action needed to combat this devastating disease.

The Government’s plan also includes a tough new compliance code for businesses working with engineered stone and an awareness campaign to highlight the risks. The Government will continue to campaign nationally to reduce the Australian silica workplace exposure standard to 0.02 mg/m3 over an eight-hour day.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Workplace Safety Jill Hennessy

“Our ban on dry cutting is helping protect tradies from this silent killer and making sure they go home safe to their families every day.”

“Our tough new regulations are now in effect and I encourage all stonemasons who have been exposed to silica dust to register for a free health assessment as soon as possible.”

Reviewed 19 August 2020

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