Report by Dr Majid Rahgozar, ANZSOM Dust Diseases Liaison Officer
Engineered stone products with high crystalline silica content have become popular and widely used in the stone bench top industry. This appears to be the driver or at least a significant factor in a re-emergence of silica related illnesses amongst workers in the stone bench top industry (stone masons). Considering the fact that silicosis is a preventable disease, this is indicative of failure of policies and procedures in multiple levels, government, regulators, business community and health services providers.
ANZSOM in collaboration with other peak bodies such as Australia Lung Foundation, Thoracic Society, academics, occupational hygienists and union movement, has been advocating for a hierarchy of control approach in addressing this problem through i.e. eliminating the hazard by a ban on import, manufacture and use of engineered stone.
While waiting for such outcome to be realised, ANZSOM is advocating for revamping other available control measures such engineering controls e.g. wet cutting and improving ventilation, administrative controls, e.g. through updating regulations, education and training, revamped health surveillance and use of appropriate PPE e.g. Powered air purifying respirators.
I have been working with the Alfred Hospital Respiratory Department in a newly established Occupational Respiratory Clinic (AORC) for almost a year. In the first truly multidisciplinary health surveillance program, occupational physicians and registrars working alongside respiratory physicians along with close collaboration with radiologists and rheumatologists who are interested in this field, to provide a compressive health surveillance as well as collecting data for better understanding this emerging epidemic amongst stone masons. In this setting we have replaced ILO CXR with a HR CT scan of the chest as well as screening for systematic inflammatory conditions, renal and dermatological conditions that could be attributed to exposure to respirable silica dust.
Interested occupational physicians or trainee registrars can contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEW WorkSafe Victoria Compliance Code - Managing exposure to crystalline silica: Engineered stone
The latest WorkSafe Victoria Compliance Code, which came into effect November 2022, provides practical guidance for those who have duties or obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017, in relation to exposure to crystalline silica dust as a result of working with engineered stone.
Click here to download the Compliance Code
Click here for more information and resources about crystalline silica