Silica – exposure risk for engineered stone benchtop workers
Silicosis health screenings
Silicosis health screenings are currently being offered for affected South Australian workplaces. For more information on the silicosis health screenings, contact MAQOHSC on 08 8204 9842.
Support during silicosis health screenings
We understand that being tested for silicosis may make you worried or anxious about what this means for you and your family. We’re here to support you.
Free and confidential counselling is available to you, your family and your workplace through one of our Employee Assistance Program providers.
In addition to the one on one counselling sessions, your employer can arrange free onsite group education sessions which can cover issues such as anxiety around screening, fear of diagnosis and supporting each other. This can be arranged by the employer calling one of the Employee Assistance Providers below.
To book an appointment:
Corporate Health Group
Call 08 8215 6799 or 1300 66 77 00
Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm
Call 08 8354 9800
Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm
- Support for you and your workers during silicosis health screening – flyer
- Silicosis health screening in your workplace – postcard
- Silicosis health screening in your workplace – poster
MATES in Construction
For people working within the construction and allied industries, MATES in Construction is another available support option during silicosis health screenings. You can call MATES for a confidential conversation and they can help connect you with other support and services if required. To talk to MATES, call 1300 642 111.
Other support services:
- Regional Access for SA rural areas – call 1300 032 186
- Beyond Blue – call 1300 224 636
- MensLine Australia – call 1300 789 978
- Lifeline Australia – call 13 11 14 for 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services
There have been reports in the media recently about the impact that the increased use of engineered stone products in kitchens and other household benchtops has had on workers in the stone benchtop cutting industry.
New engineered products may have up to 93% or higher crystalline quartz silica content compared to natural stone products (40% silica)1.
Silica dust is generated when materials containing silica are cut, sanded, polished, drilled or blasted. When this dust is inhaled into the lungs it can cause silicosis, a disease which leads to scarring, swelling and fluid build-up in the lungs, interfering with a person’s ability to breathe.
While it usually takes decades of breathing in quartz containing dust to develop silicosis, accelerated silicosis can occur after exposure over 1 to 10 years, but usually 3 to 10 years. All silicosis can be prevented by strict and appropriate work practices to control silica dust generation2.
Who is at risk?
Silica is found in many materials common on construction sites, including soil, concrete, masonry, rock, granite and landscaping materials. If you cut, sand, drill, blast or polish materials which contain silica, or you work near others performing these tasks, you may be exposed to silica dust.
Controlling the risks
It is important to minimise your exposure to silica dust.
A comprehensive list of ways to reduce exposure to silica dust is available on the SafeWorkSA website. If you have any questions about this contact SafeWork SA on 1300 365 255.
What to do if you are a worker
If you work in an environment where you are exposed to silica dust, speak to your employer about how you can reduce your exposure. If you are concerned you have been exposed to silica dust, speak to your employer, contact MAQOHSC on 08 8204 9842, or consult your doctor and ask for an assessment at a Thoracic Clinic. Early detection and control of further exposure to silicosis is important and is likely to lead to better outcomes.
If you have been diagnosed with silicosis please contact us on 08 8233 2545 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to start your claim. A specialist team within ReturnToWorkSA will work closely with you to investigate and manage your claim and arrange for you to receive care and support to best manage your condition.
Useful links for workers:
- ABC’s 7.30 program: Deadly Dust
- Lung Foundation Australia: Silica Fact sheet
- Cancer Council: Silica dust
What to do if you are an employer
You have a responsibility to manage your workers’ risk of exposure to silica dust. SafeWorkSA can provide information on how you can ensure your workers are protected and what you need to do for ongoing health monitoring.
If you would like information on the silicosis health screenings being undertaken, contact MAQOHSC on 08 8204 9842.
You can also promote the free Employee Assistance Program to workers and encourage workers to access support if needed.
Useful links for employers:
- SafeWork SA: Managing respirable crystalline silica exposures
- Master Builders Association: Safety Update
- Safe Work Australia: Crystalline silica health monitoring
- RACP Accelerated Silicosis: Frequently asked questions
- HIA: Silica dust hazards and solutions
1 Adelaide Exposure Science and Health, Engineered Stone Benchtops Projects Factsheet https://www.racp.edu.au/advocacy/division-faculty-and-chapter-priorities/faculty-of-occupational-environmental-medicine/accelerated-silicosis/faqs