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 engineered stone benchtop fabricators 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 August 2020, WorkCover has completed the health screening of 1,053 stonemasons exposed to RCS from engineered stone, with 1 still yet to complete the process.

224 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:

  • 32 have a diagnosis of progressive massive fibrosis
  • 13 have a respiratory condition that is not silicosis
  • 179 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 health screening.

Under workplace health and safety legislation and the Managing respirable crystalline silica dust exposure in the stone benchtop industry Code of Practice 2019, it is a legal requirement for employers to ensure all of their workers have had an initial health screen, and to maintain ongoing health monitoring of their staff. This applies to all employers in the stone benchtop industry and covers the fabrication, processing, installation, maintenance or removal of both engineered and natural stone benchtops.

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

Last updated
03 September 2020