Audit campaign focus
To ensure workers are being protected from the risk of silicosis, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) inspectors audited all 158 (known) stone benchtop fabrication workplaces between August 2020 and May 2021.
Since 2017, 238 workers in the stone benchtop fabrication industry have been diagnosed with silicosis due to occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS).
This was the third in a series of compliance audit campaigns undertaken by WHSQ, targeting RCS exposure control and worker health monitoring in the stone benchtop fabrication industry. Workplaces were assessed against the requirements of the Managing RCS dust exposure in the stone benchtop industry Code of Practice 2019 (PDF, 0.91 MB) (the Code) which commenced on 31 October 2019.
To help businesses comply with the new requirements, before the audits, workplaces were provided with a copy of the Code, plus guidance and information on how to manage RCS risks .
Inspectors completed 233 site visits and took 368 enforcement actions to address non-compliances consisting of:
- 302 improvement notices
- 27 infringement notices (totally $79,920 in fines)
- 24 prohibition notices
- 12 immediate compliances (issues resolved during the inspection)
- two electrical safety notices
- one notice to produce documents.
Key non-compliant findings
Inspectors identified the following key non-compliance issues:
|Area of non-compliance||Issue|
Respiratory protective equipment
Managing RCS risks to workers and others
- Never undertake uncontrolled dry cutting, grinding, trimming, drilling, sanding or polishing.
- Enclose slab cutting, grinding, trimming, sanding or polishing equipment.
- Use wet cutting methods like water jetting and on-tool water suppression.
- Use on-tool extraction with H class vacuum/dust extractor.
- Use powered air purifying respirators with at least P2 filters.
- Routinely clean up any residual dust using wet methods, low-pressure water or H Class vacuum.
- Dispose of slurry before it dries out.
- Check recycled water is filtered properly.
- Carry out air monitoring to check dust controls are working properly.
- Provide annual health monitoring for workers to detect early changes in health.
- Prepare a safe work method statement for onsite installation and provide it to the principal contractor or builder.
- Always consult workers when making decisions on the matters above.