A new code of conduct will make sure that employers are guided by best practice and expert advice to reduce the risks to their workers contracting deadly silicosis, thanks to the Andrews Labor Government.
Developed in consultation with medical experts, employees and employers the code provides critical guidance to employers working with engineered stone, including how to comply with the prohibition on uncontrolled dry cutting of engineered stone and health monitoring requirements.
It sets out employers’ obligations and duties to provide a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.
Those duties include undertaking a risk management process, consulting with employees, and providing appropriate information, instruction, training and supervision.
The code applies to all workplaces where engineered stone is handled, including manufacturers, suppliers, persons who have management or control of a workplace, employers, self-employed persons, and employees, including independent contractors.
Silicosis is caused by breathing in tiny silica particles which causes incurable scarring of the lungs. In severe cases patients will need a lung transplant and tragically death is a real possibility.
Those working with engineered stone, which is commonly used for kitchen and bathroom bench tops, are at risk due to the high the concentration of silica in the products they work with.
The code was developed as part of the Labor Government’s action plan and follows a ban on the dry cutting of engineered stone and a health screening program for Victoria’s 1,400 stonemasons.
In December the workplace exposure standard for respirable crystalline silica was halved to a time weighted average of 0.05mg/m3 over an eight-hour day but the Labor Government urges them to adopt an even lower 0.02mg/m3 limit to protect their workers from this silent killer.
WorkSafe has made 1240 visits to workplaces and issued 436 compliance notices ordering employers to improve their safe guards against exposure to silica dust.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Workplace Safety Jill Hennessy
“This code of conduct has been developed by the experts – all employers should be using it to reduce the risks of their workers of contracting deadly silicosis.”
“Where a worker contracts silicosis, any failure to adhering to the code may also be used as evidence in criminal proceedings against that employer.”
“Silicosis has had a debilitating effect on too many tradies – that’s why we’ve banned dry cutting and are rolling out an unprecedented enforcement blitz to help protect Victorian workers.”