Background to silicosis

In mid-September 2018, the Office of Industrial Relations (OIR) issued a safety alert to highlight the significant health risks for those in the engineered stone benchtop fabrication industry caused by exposure to silica dust.

Benchtops made from engineered stone have a very high crystalline silica content (up to 95%).

Stonemasons can be exposed to silica dust while cutting, grinding, sanding and polishing stone bench tops and during the installation process.

A state-wide audit of 140 engineered stone benchtop fabricators that started in November 2018 is enforcing bans on uncontrolled dry cutting. Other audit measures include improving dust control to lower worker exposure to silica dust, ensuring effective use of respiratory protective equipment and providing health monitoring for workers at significant risk.

Current data

As at 31 December 2019, WorkCover has completed the health screening of 1,009 stonemasons exposed to RCS from engineered stone, with 19 still yet to complete the process.

195 people have been diagnosed with a work related condition and we are helping them with their recovery and rehabilitation and providing compensation for their loss of wages. Some of these people were diagnosed through other health screening and they have lodged claims with us.

Of these workers:

  • 26 have a diagnosis of progressive massive fibrosis
  • 10 have a respiratory condition that is not silicosis
  • 159 have silicosis.

What is WorkCover doing?

Working with engineered stone benchtop products can expose stonemasons to harmful silica dust. The health risks to workers also increases if safe work practices are not followed and monitored.

That is why WorkCover strongly encourages people in the stonemason industry, or those who have previously worked in it and been exposed to silica dust, to undergo urgent health screening.

We are also assisting stonemason employers to meet their obligations in relation to health screening workers by funding an initial health screen for current and former Queensland stonemasons who have been exposed to silica from engineered stone.

We also work closely with medical specialists to facilitate efficient disease diagnosis, treatment and ongoing health and wellbeing support to these workers and their families.

Last updated
15 January 2020