A new safety taskforce has been established to protect workers in the manufactured stone industry from lung diseases.

The Manufactured Stone Industry Taskforce has been convened by SafeWork NSW and comprises industry, peak bodies, medical professionals, unions and other government agencies including the Lung Foundation, Australian Industry Group and Unions NSW. The Taskforce will review safety standards and consider safety improvements to better protect workers from crystalline silica dust exposure which can lead to the lung disease silicosis.

SafeWork NSW Acting Executive Director, Specialist Services, Ron Keelty said SafeWork NSW was committed to protecting workers against injuries and diseases from dangerous chemical exposure in the workplace.

“The manufactured stone industry involves newer engineered stone products such as caesarstone for bathroom and kitchen benchtops,” Mr Keelty said.

“It also includes bricks, roof tiles and concrete products that contain crystalline silica.

“When disturbed by cutting, sanding, blasting or grinding, crystalline silica dust is released which can get into a worker’s lungs and lead to the lung disease silicosis.”

Mr Keelty said there had been an average of nine reported cases of silicosis a year in NSW since 2011/12. "This is a disease that is 100 per cent preventable if the correct safety measures are in place,” Mr Keelty said.

“This involves having adequate ventilation systems, installing dust capture systems on portable tools, wetting down stone, providing personal protective equipment such as masks and respirators, and not using compressed air to remove or clean-up settled dust.

“Businesses should also conduct regular air monitoring to confirm that crystalline silica dust is not exceeding the Australian Workplace Exposure Standard and provide health monitoring to workers.

“SafeWork NSW is committed to driving down work-related injuries and illnesses, and through the Taskforce, we aim to improve safety standards and workplace practices as well as potentially strengthen hazardous chemical safeguards.”

The Manufactured Stone Industry Taskforce is an initiative of SafeWork NSW’s Hazardous Chemicals and Materials Exposures Baseline Reduction Strategy 2017-2022 and will run from July 2018 — 30 June 2019. For further information on hazardous chemicals safety, visit www.safework.nsw.gov.au or call 13 10 50.

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