9 Nov 2019

Silica dust exposure levels set to be halved

11:47 am on 9 November 2019

WorkSafe is poised to cut in half the level of safe exposure allowed for a potentially lethal dust commonly created by cutting kitchen benchtops.

Deaths and illnesses from silicosis caused by inhaling crystalline silica have been on the rise across the Tasman.

WorkSafe said the disease's prevalence in this country is unknown, but it has issued a safety alert to the engineered stone benchtop industry.

Engineered stone has silica levels of up to 90 percent, and when it is cut and polished fine dust particles are released that can lodge in the lungs causing serious illness and even death.

WorkSafe is taking a recommendation to its board this month to halve the workplace exposure standard, to 0.05 milligrams of the dust per cubic metre of air.

In New Zealand there were five deaths from silicosis in the two decades prior to 2013.

The proliferation of synthetic stone tops has led to a sharp rise in the number of cases among stonemasons in Australia. In 2017, the Cancer Council warned tradies that long-term exposure to silica dust is being linked to more than 200 lung cancer cases each year.

A silicosis taskforce has been set up in Australia and one of its priorities will be finding our how many workers are affected.


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