Silocosis And Silica: What’s All the Fuss?
Nothing changes if nothing changes and building standards and the materials used in construction are always on the improve as society deals with ways to improve insulation in housing and use materials that are kinder to the planet and don’t cause health issues to the occupants or trades who install them. Silica in engineered stone benches used in kitchens, bathrooms and laundries is a subject that has recently gained a lot of media and political attention. Ironically, it is this political attention that is going to change the way the building industry uses engineered stone. The irony is that the state based Work Health and Safety departments (in NSW it falls under SafeWork NSW) have known about the issues associated with cutting engineered stone for many many years and have failed the workers in the stone masonry industry who have been employed by businesses who decided to put profit before people and use techniques that have ultimately led to people suffering with silicosis and in some cases their early death.
These same state governments have promoted stonemasonry courses thru TAFE outlets when SafeWork NSW they knew the unregulated industry was littered with people operating from containers using un safe work practices with these same apprentices attending TAFE. Dry cutting is one such technique which has caused health issues for stone masons around the country. Not all businesses are equal, there are many stonemasonry businesses that use world best practices when it comes to supplying engineered stone with silica for your bathroom, laundry or kitchen. These businesses have invested heavily in wet cutting, lifting equipment and ongoing training that protects their workforce. They usually have a heart count and not head count mentality to their employees.
It looks like engineered stone with silica will be banned in Australia. WorkSafe Australia says……Commonwealth, state and territory WHS ministers met on 27 October 2023, and agreed Safe Work Australia publish the Decision Regulation Impact Statement: Prohibition on the use of engineered stone.
The Decision RIS recommends a prohibition on the use of all engineered stone, irrespective of crystalline silica content, to protect the health and safety of workers. The report was informed by stakeholder consultation, independent economic analysis, and an expert review of evidence. WHS ministers have agreed to meet again before the end of 2023 to consider the recommendations in the report.
What is the silicosis?
Silicosis is a long-term lung disease caused by inhaling large amounts of crystalline silica dust, usually over many years.
What is silica dust?
SafeWork Australia says…
Silica dust or respirable crystalline silica (RCS) is generated in workplace mechanical processes such as crushing, cutting, drilling, grinding, sawing or polishing of natural stone or man-made products that contain silica. RCS can penetrate deep into the lungs and can cause irreversible lung damage.
The good news is that there are benchtop products already on the Australian market been used by bathroom, laundry and kitchen manufacturers that contain no silica. At Designer Bathrooms Plus we deal with two Australian made vanity manufacturers who use 12mm and 20mm benchtop top materials that contain no silica and are easy to install and repair if needed.
Timberline, based out of Armidale in NSW use a product called Silksurface which is 100% silica-free, and can be repaired over the lifetime of the product.
Beyond their unrivalled repairability and safety, SilkSurface tops offer an array of exceptional benefits:
- Nonporous: Say farewell to stubborn stains and harmful bacteria. With a nonporous surface, cleaning becomes a breeze.
- Crack and Chip Resistant: Enjoy durability and resistance to cracks and chips, even in high-traffic areas.
- A 10-Year Warranty.
- Can be drilled on site with normal hole saw.
- Are developed to withstand heat, chemicals, moisture and impact.
- Is hygienic and easy to maintain. Does not require sealing or treating.
- Has a large range of colours.
- Is not cold to touch like natural stone.
- Can be made to any size, making it ideal for custom sizes.
Talk to the team at Designer Bathrooms Plus about your next bathroom and laundry renovation and we will find a range of products to suit your style and budget.