By September 1st, South Australia will ban dangerous practices associated with engineered stone to reduce the number of workers exposed to deadly silica dust.
New regulations will prohibit uncontrolled processing of engineered stone, requiring specific control measures for workers in order to minimise the risk of silica dust inhalation. Workers must use respiratory protective equipment and dust control systems when handling engineered stone.
Violating these regulations could result in penalties up to $6,000 for individuals or $30,000 for corporations, with existing criminal offenses carrying fines up to $3 million or imprisonment for reckless conduct.
The regulations will be effective from September 1, 2023. Further national actions are being considered, including a potential import ban and additional regulations to manage high-risk crystalline silica processes.
In 2020-21, SafeWork SA issued over 100 statutory notices to employers for respirable crystalline silica (RCS) related breaches. This was after 173 statutory notices were issued after compliance audits for RCS exposure risks, in the previous year.
"Silica dust is a deadly and preventable hazard, like asbestos before it. It's imperative that employers and governments learn from past mistakes and take action to prevent further harm to workers and the community."
“Prevention isn’t just better than the cure, it’s our only option, there is no cure for this horrific disease.”
"Right now, there's hundreds of South Australian construction workers, manufacturing workers, and home renovators breathing in this deadly dust. More than 10,000 Australians will go on to develop lung cancer from Silica exposure."
"There are hundreds of instances of unsafe practices causing silica exposure every year. We know how dangerous engineered stone is; yet some employers are just not getting the message. That's why this action from government is so crucial and we’re pleased to see the South Australian Government showing leadership on this issue.”
"Unions have long been calling for action to be taken to protect workers from silica dust with a ban on engineered stone. These new regulations are a huge a step in the right direction and will help to protect South Australian workers until a total ban can be implemented, because there is simply no safe level of crystalline silica exposure.”
"To guarantee the safety of all workers, the SA work health safety system needs further serious reform. Workers need to have confidence that the work health safety system can proactively protect them, not just reactively punish their bosses after the unthinkable happens."