Last week WorkSafe Victoria released a new compliance code, designed to protect people working with engineered stone from potentially deadly exposure to silica dust.
The new compliance code provides a clear cut set of safety requirements and obligations for working with engineered stone. It comes on the back of a complete ban of uncontrolled cutting, grinding and polishing engineered stone in August last year.
Workplace Safety Minister Jill Hennessy said in a statement last week that ‘this code of conduct has been developed by the experts – all employers should be using it to reduce the risks of their workers of contracting deadly silicosis’.
She went on to explain that ‘where a worker contracts silicosis, any failure to adhere to the code may also be used as evidence in criminal proceedings against that employer’.
Download the new WorkSafe Compliance Code: Managing Exposure to Crystalline Silica: Engineered Stone
The information in the code is essential for all employers (and self-employed people) who work with engineered stone, or manufacture, import or supply engineered stone, along with employers in the building and construction industry – it sets out the specific duties and obligations that you need to comply with under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations).
Why has the compliance code been created?
The code has been created to help protect people from exposure to silica dust, a natural mineral that is found in a variety of different building materials. Silica dust can be incredibly harmful when inhaled – at low to moderate levels over a long period of time, or at high levels over a short period time. Exposure can and does lead to silicosis (irreversible damage to the lungs), lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and kidney disease.
Stonemasons and tilers are at particularly high risk of silica dust exposure, due to the high silica crystalline content of reconstituted and engineered stone. In recent years, we’ve seen an alarming number of Silicosis cases come to light and awareness of the dangers has increased – in fact Silicosis is being touted as ‘the next asbestos’.
Need help complying with the code?
Having worked with some of the key players in the Australian stone industry, Risk Strategies is one of Australia’s most experienced silica exposure workplace health and safety consulting firms.
We intimately understand the requirements and obligations the code sets out and can work with you to:
Review your existing factory and site related processes and documentation.
Develop and implement effective safety processes, systems and procedures that minimise your employee’s silica dust exposure.
Create the necessary compliance documentation (including Project Safety Plans, Safe Work Method Systems) you need to ensure you comply.
The release of the code comes on the back of increased scrutiny on the sector, and it is only going to intensify in the coming months and years – there will be more WorkSafe inspections, Unions will continue to focus on the issue and your clients will be wanting to make sure you’re doing the right thing, and have the documentation to prove it.
If you would like to more information or advice about how you can ensure your business complies email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 03 9863 8404.